Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Squished Cat Update and photos as promised (not photos of squished cat though)

Thank you for all the good wishes for Bellus. The reconstituted kitty is doing very well. The biggest problem now is the enforced isolation in the dining room as he is not allowed out and is supposed to be resting for a week. He is not happy about this and has already made a break for the catflap. Clearly nobody has told him that he had his entire insides rearranged on Saturday and he's not supposed to jump around. It does look like he will make a complete recovery, thanks to a LOT of effort on the part of our vet and a LOT of money. Unsurprisingly we have been spending some time this evening getting pet insurance quotes. Better late than never, as they say.

On a more enjoyable and less stressful note, I managed to take some photos at The Corbies last weekend when we went down for Round 2 of "Battle of the Garden". I think we did okay too.

Here we have the slightly aged summerhouse - this is the next task on the list: get some timber preservative onto that wood pronto! The low white brick building is the back of the pigsty/kennels/boys' clubhouse.

Then we have the holding cells. Least said about them the better, I think.

And this is the view from the holding cells out across the fields. This patio area faces sort of south-west so gets the afternoon and evening sun (if there is any). It is a lovely spot and we are already planning tables, chairs, barbeques, lazy bottles of beer.....

I have just realised I did not take any pictures inside the house (mainly because we spent most of our time outside). I will try to remedy that next time. If we go this weekend and need to take Bellus with us, you may even get photos of Irate and Not At All Sickly Cat Trying to Escape from Empty Cottage Bedroom.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Eventful, I think they'd call it

So I had planned a cheery photo-filled post all about what we were up to this weekend. The celebration of Husband's step-father's 87th birthday followed by a trip to the new cottage (tentatively named "The Corbies") with details of all the work we were planning to do there this weekend. I will still do that, I promise, but not tonight. Our weekend was knocked off kilter slightly when Bellus (the quieter black and white one of the cats - not the one that chases squirrels up the house walls) got himself hit by a car on Friday.

We didn't know he had been hit by a car at first, of course. The boys and I came home on Friday afternoon to find that Bellus had done his doings on the kitchen floor and was, even more unusually, covered in the said messy and unpleasant doings. I pinned him down to scrub him clean and he barely complained. He was subdued, breathing rather heavily and did not want to eat. We could see he was not himself and decided we would monitor him overnight and figure out what to do in the morning. By Saturday morning he was no better (Zyra sleeping on his head won't have helped) and I managed to wangle an emergency appointment first thing at the vet.

Where it was confirmed that he had almost certainly been hit by a car and suffered either a pneumothorax or a ruptured diaphragm, hence the laboured breathing. Either his lungs were collapsing or they were being compressed by all his internal organs which normally reside in his abdomen suddenly and traumatically being relocated to his chest.

I left him with the vet for x-rays and we went off to my mother-in-law's for a wee celebration of her husband's 87th birthday (he always wins at those "I remember when we didn't have colour TV!" type conversations. He can remember when they didn't even have radio. Shuts the rest of us up instantly.) We were then phoned with the bad news: it was indeed a ruptured diaphragm and full-on surgery was required. So to cut a long story short, a few hours and several hundred pounds later, Bellus had been opened up and re-arranged in his proper form like a furry Rubik's Cube and sent off to a 24 hour clinic for post-op care and observation.

We picked him up this afternoon, expecting a wan, long-suffering, slightly pathetic cat. Instead he is almost unbelievably perky. He has a very odd haircut indeed as various parts of him had to be shaved for incisions, drips, anaesthetics and so on but he is pretty much himself otherwise. We have him quarantined in the dining room with his favourite blanket, a litter tray (oh the luxury!) and food that Zyra can't steal when our backs are turned. We need to take him back to the vet for a check up tomorrow but he is looking pretty good considering all he has been through in the past 36 hours or so. Better than we are, to be honest. We are kicking ourselves for not having insured the cats in the first place (Hey Isabelle, want to compare cat versus guinea pig vet fees?) and feeling slightly guilty at feeling short-changed by how not-ill he looks!

We are relieved to still have him with us, nervous about how or whether we can stop him doing the same thing again and wondering whether you have to declare previous near-death experiences on pet insurance proposal forms.

Please send gin.

Monday, 20 September 2010

I'm a plutocrat!

At least that's what Isabelle called me in a recent e-mail. She meant it fondly. I think.

This name calling was in response to my telling her that Husband and I have clubbed together with his sister and father and bought a wee cottage in the country. We are of course pretending to be grown up and responsible and claiming that this is primarily a long term capital investment, sensible in these days of non-existent interest rates, but in reality it is the realisation of a long held desire to own, like The Broons, a but n' ben.

Our version is in the Borders rather than the Highlands and has a few more bedrooms (where did all 9 Broons sleep in the but n' ben? Shelves? Some side-by-side arrangement like a big cutlery drawer?). We also have a summerhouse, where the boys plan to sleep out if the weather ever allows, and a former pig sty (make up your own punchline to that one). The pig sty was converted into kennels a while back and sports very impressive metal barred gates on the individual runs. These have been christened "the holding cells" by the boys and claimed by them as part of their "clubhouse". Not quite sure what kind of club they are planning on forming that requires holding cells, but sort of hoping that I will at least get good blogging material out of it. And that the neighbours aren't too traumatised by the goings-on.

We got the keys on Friday so all trooped down for a glorified camp out on Saturday morning. There is no furniture yet as we have some damp work to do that will require plaster removal and the resulting mess and we didn't see the point of moving in furnishings that will just require to be taken out again or cleaned of layers of plaster dust . So we slept on an assortment of folding beds, camping mats and mattresses borrowed from bed settees.

We haven't had to sleep in a room with the children for a while and had forgotten how "entertaining" that can be, what with First Born's very impressive snoring and Second Born's vivid dreams and talking/fighting in his sleep. Hardly a dull moment, I tell you. I would have filmed them if I hadn't been fully engaged wondering why, when I have so much padding around my rear, it seems to do nothing to actually offset the effects of a hard floor and a camping mat with the cushioning properties of Kleenex.

Fortunately we had spent the afternoon trying to wrestle the cottage's garden into submission, so we were pretty tired to start with. The house has been unoccupied since June 2009 so the lawn was a hayfield and the weeds had taken over everywhere else. There is a wee patio at the bottom of the garden beside the holding cells and the nettles there were taller than I am and very reluctant to move. But move they eventually did - 8 full sacks of garden debris are now lined up and awaiting disposal. The garden still could not be described as tidy, but is also less likely to be described as "Oh my God, what HAPPENED??????" So that's good.

Next weekend we plan to buy some creosote. Then we'll cover the boys in clingfilm, hand them a couple of paintbrushes and point them at the decking. If you are very lucky, I'll take photos.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

They don't know they're born

I have a little schoolday morning routine with Second Born. While I am in the shower, he charges upstairs after he has eaten but before he is dressed and tries to get into our bed and hide without me noticing. Usually he fails (he is getting a tad big these days to be convincingly camouflaged by a mere duvet) but we have a little chat for a while before I turf him out and send him to get dressed. It's quite a nice little interlude before the day starts in earnest.

The other day SB was complaining about being a bit cold and was using this as his excuse for staying under my duvet and not going to his own room to get dressed. I suggested he might want to consider wearing something more than a t shirt and a pair of boxers if he was feeling a bit chilly in the morning. He looked slightly taken aback by the suggestion, as if the idea of putting on more clothing in order not to feel cold was a distinctly alien one.

And it dawned on me that it actually was. Our children have always lived in a centrally-heated pretty much draught-free house. They can (and do) wander around in t-shirts and boxers in the depths of winter and don't give it a second thought. So to much eye-rolling from SB I told him at length how we didn't have central heating in the house I grew up in (or in the first house Husband and I bought together, for that matter) and how you sometimes woke in the morning to find ice on the inside of your window. How you had to wear several layers around the house anytime after September and how you would lie in bed in the morning watching your breath rise in little steamy puffs, putting off the dread moment when you had to throw back the blankets and run for the bathroom.

And that reminded me too of getting "fireside tartan" or "corned beef legs" as my Granny used to call them - that mottled red itchiness on the skin caused by sitting too close to a source of direct heat. SB refused to believe such a condition existed - again, proof that he has never had to jostle with his younger brother for a spot in front of the two-bar electric fire that is the only heating in the entire house. In fact as I told these tales, I realised that he was looking at me in exactly the same way I used to look at my Dad when he told me stories as a child - how he had no bathroom in his house until he was in his twenties and how as a young lad he used to deliver milk round the streets of Leith from a handcart with an oil lamp tied to the front. An oil lamp! It sounded virtually Dickensian to me and I suppose that's what no central heating sounds like to a modern 10 year old.

It's an interesting thought, isn't it, that the twentieth century was such a time of rapid social change that my family went from oil lamps and no plumbing to central heating, laptops and PVRs in two generations. Maybe I don't know I'm born either.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

It's a miracle!

Those of you who know me on Facebook will also know that here in Casa Loth we have had some toilet trouble recently. (Now, aren't you sorry you don't follow me on Facebook? Toilet problems - who doesn't want to read about that on a more or less daily basis?) More specifically, our downstairs loo (sometimes referred to as "the cloakroom" if we are feeling particularly elegant) gave up the ghost about 10 days ago. It just refused to flush. Nothing I did - you know, taking the lid off the cistern and peering in, poking the various components, bobbing the float up and down - made any difference. It was broken.

I carried out the limited diagnostic tests of which I am capable. Is there water in there? Check. Is the handle connected to the wee metal hooky bit? Check. Does the plunger-y bit go up and down when you pull the handle? Check.

At the limits of my limited expertise, I resorted to the all-knowing Dr Google who promptly diagnosed a faulty siphon. Not only diagnosed, but provided photos of the part in question and little video clips of how to remove and replace it. Husband and I conferred. He also tried the float-bobbing and handle-wiggling tests (just in case I had done them wrong) and he too could not get the flush to do its thing. It did appear that a new siphon was needed. We agreed that we are, ostensibly, grown-ups and should be able to tackle such a task ourselves.

We needed a new siphon, of course, which I went out and purchased. It turned out that we also needed a pipe wrench - a seriously efficient looking implement for removing and fitting......well, pipes. I even ventured forth to a proper tool shop (ie not one of those big warehouse-type chains but a proper shop with a bloke in overalls who goes and fetches what you want from the back of the shop) to buy said wrench. Husband agreed that it was something we would almost certainly need again at some point so we should just buy one.

I must tell you that when I bought the pipe wrench, I popped it into my handbag to carry it home. I have a large handbag as I tend to carry around a lot of junk (by which I mean books) and I put all sorts of stuff in it (today for example, it contained at one point a pair of slippers and two pairs of gloves as well as the usual purse, umbrella, notebook, diary etc). The man in the overalls looked mildly impressed and said "That's a rare big handbag." I nodded. "A girl's gotta have somewhere to carry her pipe wrench" I said.

Now I am slightly worried that he thinks I was buying a pipe wrench to carry around with me as some sort of offensive weapon ("Yeah, the claw hammer is okay for brute force but you can get a much better grip on the extremities with an adjustable pipe wrench")

Anyway, we were now all kitted up and the Great Siphon Replacement Project was pencilled in for this weekend. Until Husband went in to the loo to check we really did know where to turn the water off. He pulled the flush experimentally. And it worked. Repeatedly. It is still working now, hours later.

So I can only conclude that in fact we have a miracle on our hands: the Self-Healing Toilet of Edinburgh. Admission will be charged and I am, as we speak, working on my range of souvenir knitted toilet roll cosies. Place your orders now.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Important question

Our wireless router has apparently decided that it does know me after all and has stopped cutting me dead and refusing to recognise my existence (or at least that of my laptop). This may have had something to do with the dire threats I am sure Husband was muttering under his breath as he wrestled with the settings in order to get the printer back onto the network (router also didn't like printer so pretended it wasn't there either).

Anyway I am back now, albeit briefly, to ask a very important question: when you go to the hairdresser, do you tip him/her? This is obviously a question for the non-North Americans among you as the whole tipping culture is completely different over there.

As a British person I find the whole subject of tips excruciating. I hate not knowing whether to tip, how much to tip etc. I squirmed with awkwardness when the duty manager showed us to our hotel room in Prague. Are you supposed to tip him or is a duty manager above that? If you should tip, how much? What if you only have the equivalent of a £20 note in local currency? You can't ask for change, surely? This sort of agonising is the main reason I avoid full service gas stations in Canada: I am pretty sure one is expected to tip the guy who fills your tank and wipes your windscreen but I never NEVER have change on me in gas stations and I always pay by credit card and you can't tip when you pay that way and I don't know whether it is better to actually say "I'm sorry, I'd tip you but I have no change" or to say nothing so I always end up slinking away in an embarassed fashion, sure that the poor guy is muttering about stingy Scottish people behind my back.

So, back to my question. It has never in all the years I have been an adult occurred to me that my hairdresser might expect a tip. Am I wrong in this? Do I not in fact have an awkward cow's lick in the front of my hair, just successive hairdressers over the years cutting it funny to punish me for my lack of gratuity-giving? And if I am wrong, again, I always pay by card and there is no option for a tip on the wee machine. What do I do? And what is the acceptable amount of a hairdresser's tip?

Or am I worrying about nothing? Please tell me I am worrying about nothing or I may have to change hairdressers again.