Hanging on

Heart to heart

Well, Kuura's trip to the vet to have parts removed went well. She charmed all the nurses and after coming round from the anaesthetic, ate one and a half sachets of wet food. I was intructed to give her a light meal of say, fish or chicken, in the evening, following her op, so as not to risk upsetting her stomach. It seemed a rather unnecessary precaution after the sachets had been wolfed down earlier.
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Still, mustn't grumble, as they say.

Not much about Kuura

Tycho's been off-colour for a few days. He didn't seem quite himself on Wed night, and it continued over Thursday and Friday. I was keeping an eye on him; he was quiet and less active than usual, and didn't want to eat much, though he could still be tempted by wet cat food and chicken. Occasionally he seemed to try to vomit or clear his throat. By Friday evening, I thought he might have a hairball that he couldn't bring up.

So Saturday morning I called the vet and got an appointment for late morning. The vet found he was sensitive in this throat and though the lining might have been scratched by a hairball coming up, or he might have grass or something stuck in there. I left him so they could do an examination under anaesthetic. Lunchtime, the vet called to say his tonsils were inflamed and he must have been fighting an infection - which was not too bad. Unfortunately, they'd found a heart murmur and wanted to do a blood test to see if it was potentially serious. I told them to go ahead.

When I went to pick him up in the afternoon, he was fine. They'd given him an long-lasting antibiotic injection, so I wouldn't need to faff about with pills. The blood test had indicated that his heart was working harder than normal. They have recommended he is seen by a cardio specialist who can do scans to see if it's something that requires medication, or something that might only need an annual check up. Diesel had heart failure, and showed no signs of it until she had fluid build up in her lungs, just a few weeks before she had to be put to sleep, so although Tycho seems fine (and is younger) I know how it can pass unnoticed in cats.
  The problem is that my pet insurance company will only pay out if he is referred to one of their preferred specialists. In this case, it would be in Derby. He could be seen by a specialist in Sheffield, but I would have to pay myself  - around £250, I don't want to drive as far as Derby myself, especially not when worrying about my cat. The train fare isn't too bad though.  I don't need to make a decision immediately. He's going back for a check up on Thursday.

The week after, I take Kuura to the vet to be neutered. I was hoping I might be able to book that on a Saturday, when there will be less traffic, but they don't do routine surgery on weekends. So I'll have to battle with the rush hour to get her there for 9.00am. At least I should be heading against the main flow of traffic - out of the city on my way there.

Just to add to the fun of the day, I have a cold, so I've been getting through tissues at an industrial rate.

Kuura is settling in.

We had a nice trip up to Cumbria to fetch Kuura on Sat. We stopped in the little town of Kirkby Stephen for lunch on the way. It has a nice little shopping street with cafes, a sweet shop, art gallery, antique shops, a bookshop and a couple of charity shops, so plenty for us to take a look at. I got a hat and a necklace from a charity shop.

We spent a little time with Brenda before setting off home, with Kuura in her carrier, on the back seat beside me. We were partway home before realizing that we didn't know what kind of food Kuura was used to. Thanks to modern tech, we managed to find Brenda's phone number, call her for the info and find a pet shop on our route through Sheffield that sold the right stuff and check the opening times, all while on the motorway across the Pennines. How times change. It wasn't till we were nearly home that I realized I must have left my new hat at Brenda's house.

Once home, I shut the other two cats out of the living room, set up litter tray, food and water for Kuura, and let my impatient little cat out of the carrier. She came out at once, talking in whispers, and explored thoroughly. Then she climbed into my chair and explored me thoroughly, climbing my shoulders, rubbing against my face and behaving like I was her long-lost mother. I've never been quite so thoroughly loved by a cat in my life.

She was keen to get out and meet the other two, though the feeling wasn't mutual. She ran up to Tycho and rubbed herself against him. He looked at her in bemusement, then ran off. Kuura thought it was a game and chased him. For the next day or two, their interaction was mostly of my big fluffy Birman being chasing by a little silver kitten. It was so funny. Iella's first reaction was to hiss on sight and generally disapprove from a distance. She spent most of her time on the bathroom windowsill (a favoured spot in any case) and was a bit huffy with me. She did mellow enough for me to pick her up and have cuddles though. The hissing gradually reduced to just when Kuura got too close, and she was watching a disapproving from a closer distance. Yesterday she touched noses with Kuura.

Kuura is so pretty and soft and affectionate. Silver on top and white underneath, with a black stripe down the top of her tail, black pawpads and black lips. She's showing great promise as a lap cat, Oh, and I got my hat back today; I emailed Brenda and she promised to send it.

So here's some kittenpicspam.
Kuura curled in cat tree bed
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Countdown to Kuura

This Saturday, I'm heading back up to Cumbria with Steve and Helen; we're going to collect Kuura.

She's my new kitten - a silver Somali. They are the most elegant of the semi-long hairedbreeds, slender and graceful like their Abyssinian relatives. The fur isn't that long, though they do have fluffy tails. I've seen them at shows and found them enchanting, with something delicately fairylike about them They come in the same range of colours as Abys, browns, reds, blues, fawns and silver, which may occur with the other colours or on its own. I saw the most beautful silver at the National Cat show in October and decided that was the colour I really wanted. I spoke to a breeder who was there, Brenda, who contacted me soon afterwards to say she had a silver girl, born on the day of the show.

Last December, we travelled up to Sedburgh to see the kitten, when she was about six weeks old. As she is silver, I wanted a name that had something to do with her colour - something sparkly or wintery. I was thinking that I didn't want a third cat named for a Star Wars character, and promptly remembered the character, Winter. I hadn't planned to have two cats with Star Wars names, but once I thought of Tycho for my birman, I couldn't think of anything else, so it stuck. I made an effort for the new cat, and kept searching for ideas.
  Still thinking of the winter theme, I considered Frost, and went to Google translate to find out what the word was in other languages, to see if I could find a nice name. It turns out that in Dutch, German, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic, the word for frost, is frost. Happily, Finnish offered first Halla, and then Kuura (hoarfrost). As Steve and Helen have a niece called Halla, I picked Kuura.

Here she is with her mother and siblings: Kuura is the one looking up at the camera.
Kuura and family

It's Asha's 50th birthday party in the evening, but I explained that I have something more important to do. I have to stay home with the new kitten and help her settle in. Asha has three cats: she understood.

Bye, bye, Beko: Beko, bye, bye

I've had two Beko cookers inflicted on me by the landlord or the agents. They were both poor cookers: badly designed and with unreliable temperature control in the ovens.  The first one lasted a few years and was replaced in Xmas 2015. The new one lasted for about a year (the brand comes last in Which's most recent reliabilty survey, with one star out of five). It had a conventional oven which cooked too hot, so had to be set around 20C lower than the recipe stated, and then it usually scorched the top of things. It was OK for stews and roasts, but you couldn't use it for baking. Just before Xmas it got to the point where something that needed slow, gentle  cooking for 3 hours was burnt after 70 mins.

I knew that it would simply be replaced by yet another Beko, so I suggested to the agent that I was willing to buy a cooker myself, to get one I liked, if they would pay for delivery, installation, and removal of the old one. He readily agreed to this, so after a bit of research, I ordered a new cooker and it was installed last Thursday. It's got ceramic hobs, which are more flexible than the solid plates, the top cavilty is both a second oven and a grill - and both ovens have internal lights so I can see how the food's doing (the Beko had glass doors but no light, so you still couldn't see much inside). The main oven is a fan oven and both have catalytic linings to make cleaning easier.

I'm looking forward to using a cooker that does what it's supposed to do and doesn't need constant mental calculations to get the right temperature/time. So far so good. The first thing I cooked was a beef heart stew, to share with Gary. Tesco had some beef heart in, rather randomly, and it was - not surprisingly, perhaps - quite cheap. I was curious so I bought some to try. The texure is like stewing steak and it has a beefy flavour, with a slight taste of kidney.

The Outlaw Express is in town !

My 16th western was published at the beginning of the month. Outlaw Express is the third of the Sheriff Lawson novels, following Silver Express and Dynamite Express. The previous novels featured Alec Lawson working closely with his three deputies, but this one is more of a solo adventure. Alec is working undercover, passing himself off as an outlaw in order to persuade a dangerous gang to attack a train which has lawmen aboard and waiting. However, Alcott, the leader, insists on attacking another train; this one has little worth stealing on it, so the outlaws kidnap a young woman, Lacey Fry, who is aboard.

Alec has to rescue Lacey and try to get her to safety through the snowy Colorado mountains, while being chased by the vengeful outlaws. There are six of them, and only one of him, plus the young woman from the east, who knows nothing about surviving out in the mountains.

I was very pleased when I saw the cover, after being disappointed with the covers of the previous two Express books. Both of those were rather unattractive pictures, apparently set in desert country, and with not a train in sight, in spite of the titles and the stories. Outlaw Express is much closer to the mark

The cover actually shows a train being held up, which happens in the opening scene, and there are mountains in the background. There should be snow, but two out of three aint bad. And I think it's just a nicer picture than the other two, regardless of accuracy.

Oh, and Dynamite Express is to be published in a large print format, and more of my westerns will be issued as ebooks, which is nice..

The robot apocalypse?

This morning my phone rang. I said 'hello ?'. There was no reply so I tried 'hello?' again.

After a few moments, a recorded voice said 'goodbye' and that was the end of the call.

I feel vaguely threatened by this message. Should I be worried?


Not a witch

 The weather's been nice the last few days; nice enough to go out in a summer top and sandals even. Yesterday afternoon it was looking a little suspiciously overcast, so I took a light jacket, but didn't put it on. By the time I came out of the hairdresser's. it was just spitting with rain. Fortunately, Betty Tiger's is on Infirmary Road, just opposite Tesco, where I'd parked the car, so I didn't have far to go. I popped into Tesco and when I was done some 20 mins later, it was most definitely raining.

Five minutes after that, I was parked on the opposite side of the road to my house, watching the cloudbust of rain pounding the world outside while I sat in the car, with shopping and jacket in the boot. I do have a compact umbrella in the glovebox, but wrangling that with everything else seemed too much faff for the short trip over the road. I waited for a few minutes, until it seemed to ease from cloudbust to merely downpour, then went for it.

At least the raised hatchback gives some shelter when sorting out the bags and things. I got ready, braced myself. shut the car and went for it. Now I'd seen that as usual, heavy rain meant steams of water gurgling merrily along the gutters and down the hill. I was halfway across the road before  I saw that on this occasion the steam on the other side of the road was the width of the parked cars there, and a good couple of inches deep. I couldn't go round it, and certainly couldn't jump it, I just had to splash through in my sandals.

It was rather like paddling at the seaside, though less stoney than the last time I actually did that. The water was probably warmer, too. Sandals, feet and the cuffs of my trousers were soaked, as well as getting rained on generally. Still, I didn't dissolve, so pretty sure I'm not a witch. And I was heading into my house, so easy enough to get dry. I didn't even bother changing my top or trousers - they dried out quickly on their own. I just towel fried my feet and my hair. Getting damp does tend to bring out the curl, and when it was just dry, it was incredibly full and curly, like a loose afro.

It was just as well I didn't bother staying longer in the car though. 30 minutes later I had to keep turning the telly up to hear Man About The House over the drumming of the rain on the skylight.
Iella's face

That's a relief

Late Sat night I was fussing Iella when I felt something like a scab low on her belly, between her back legs. On more detailed investigation, I realized that what I had thought was loose skin was a soft lump around a teat, which itself seemed more prominent than the others. My natural fear was that it might be breast cancer, which is almost always fatal in cats. However, she is in a very low-risk catagory, as she was neutered young and is not quite seven years old. Moreover, she's obviously fine in herself, and the swelling was soft and localised. All the same, she needed to go to the vet.

I had to wait until Monday before I could call, of course, I called 9.00 am Monday, but the PDSA hospital was closed all day for staff training - it turned out to be a new computer system. So after a twitchy night, I tried again Tues. I got through and made an appointment, but my contract had expired and I needed to contact the council to send current proof of benefits to show I was eligable. All told I spent 25 mins on the phone for those 2 calls, of which over 20 mins was on hold.

So today, I packed the cat and ventured forth into the traffic to Attercliffe. I know the route, and that I can handle the drive perfectly well, but the anticipation gives me the jitters, especially when I'm going to a timed appointment, and know that I have to park in a tiny and crowded car park. It all went fine, as part of my brain knew it would. The PDSA said they hadn't had the fax through from the council, though Iella would be seen. Luckily I'd though to bring a letter with the relevent phone number and reference number, so I called the council from the noisy waiting room. They said they had sent the fax, but I passed my phone to the receptionist, so the council lady could give verbal confirmation that I did qualify for help. This possibilty of this kind of thing happening was another thing that had been worrying me, but it was all sorted out.

We finally got to see the nice vet, who examined Iella. She concluded that the lump was just fat - middle-aged spread, basically. Iella was weighed and her heart listened too and given the general all-clear. I need to check the lump regularly, to make sure it's not sore, hard or changing size, but that's it. No scans or operations, no return visits. Just a big sigh of relief (from me and Iella). With any luck, it'll be about another six years before she needs to see a vet again.
Hanging on


Wed teatime I started feeling a little crampy, as in period pain. For background, I don't usually get them and in any case, I'm going through the menopause and haven't had a period for months. I though maybe I was building up to a heavy period, as is known to happen after a dry spell. I went to the Chivers' anyway, but after dinner I felt nauseous and lightheaded. After a lie on the sofa, this passed and although fragile and still crampy, I felt well enough to drive myself home later. I took a couple of paracetamol and went to bed with a hot water bottle.
  I woke during the night with what appeared to be a night sweat but fell asleep again for about 10 hours altogher.

Thursday I was still crampy and listless, though I did manage to get out for a little walk in the afternoon sun. In the evening I was cold and shivery; later on I was hot again,

To spare further details, this morning I checked symptoms on the NHS website, prompted by a suggestion from Ven during a phone call on Thurs, and miraculously managed to book an appointment at the doctor's this afternoon. It turns out I have a uninary infection of some degree. I was given antibiotics with instructions to start taking them if things don't improve (they haven't so far) and to call if things get worse in spite of anitbiotics. Results from urine sample due Monday.

So far so good. I went to the pharmacy just along the row of shops for the pills, then to the Chinese for takaway, to save the bother of cooking. I was taking the shortcut across the corner to my car when I missed my footing on the broken tarmac and fell in a heap. Fortunately, I'd put my leather gloves on to carry the hot takeaway, so I didn't graze my hands. My left ankle feels stiff and bruised and the right calf muscle hurts. I also put my knee on my prawn fried rice while struggling to get up afterwards, so that leaked onto the car seat. It was still edible though.

Altogether, not at my best at the moment.