Lump

One Sunday morning in 2005 I was checking my boobs, as you do, as you should, as you’d better, and I found a lump.

I had moved to London about six months before and I didn’t really know anybody, I wasn’t even that close to my flatmates. I happened to be on Flickr and I’d just been chatting to a girl I had never met but had talked to for a while, so I told her. She was lovely, and reassuring, with just the right amount of urgency, and managed to put my mind at rest so much that I was able to continue to function, whilst making sure I realised the importance of doing something about it.

Not that I wasn’t aware of that, because I was. Breast cancer is a thing very close to my heart, because my grandmother had it, and it is what ultimately killed her, by spreading to her spine and brain. This is why I have no memories of her, because breast cancer took her away. All I have is photos, and she must’ve been sick in those photos. I know she had it twice, and if she wasn’t dying in the pictures, it still, at the very least, hovers in the shadows. I buy every trinket I can justify for Cancer Research UK, over time I have bought at least twenty different pins (including the Swarovski crystal one they made in the early 2000’s, which I have since lost and am gutted about because it was beautiful), travelpass holders, all kinds of stuff. I’ve never bought any of the workout gear they sell in Peacocks because that tends to be branded for the Race for Life and I’ve never done it, so wearing a t-shirt that appears to claim I have feels wrong. I sponsor people who do runs, walks, anything for this charity. It is my chosen charity, and I will not feel bad that it means I’m not sponsoring a child or a donkey or a retired librarian, because I have considered the options and decided that I want this disease to stop taking grandmothers, and mothers, and sisters, and daughters, and aunts and mentors and best friends and I definitely, definitely do not want this disease to take me.

In London, one Sunday morning in 2005, I was generally very healthy, and I hadn’t actually bothered to register with a doctor. It hadn’t really occurred to me, it was so long since I’d needed a doctor for anything, even longer since I’d gone to a doctor and they’d actually been able to *help* with anything. However, I lived across the road from the Royal London so I looked at their website and decided to go to their walk-in centre the very next morning, first thing, before work.

I got through the day and the next morning I got up bright and early and went along to the walk-in centre. The first thing they made me do was fill in a form, explaining why I was there and who my doctor was. I had no doctor in the area so I wrote down my family doctor, hundreds of miles away, and no idea how to explain why I was there, so I said “I found a lump in my breast”. I handed in the form and sat down to wait. Soon after I was called over by the receptionist who asked me, unnecessarily loudly, about the bits of the form she didn’t like. This pissed me off because so what if I didn’t have a local doctor? And why does this woman need to know any more about my current situation than I’d already told her? So I clarified what I’d already said (frankly by saying it again whilst looking into her eyes and trying to convey the fact that this was all the information I had to give) and again, I sat down to wait.

Eventually my name was called. Or at least, I thought I heard my name called, but then some other woman got up and rushed through the door, so I sat back down. Two minutes later, this other woman was ushered out of the same door and the doctor, again, called my name, so I got up and went with her. I explained why I was there and lay on the table, and she put her hand in my bra and felt the lump.

She tried to set my mind at rest with the usual stories, that I was too young for breast cancer, it would be freakish bad luck if it was cancer, that there was nothing to worry about, most likely. What I heard was “you’re not a priority, it’s *probably* nothing so we’re not going to take you too seriously, you’re probably wasting my time here”. She told me she’d refer me to a specialist, again making sure to reassure me it was all a waste of time (paraphrasing based on what my mind heard) and away I went. I went off to work thinking that at least something was underway, I’d done my bit, I hadn’t imagined the lump because she felt it too, and I was now ‘in the system’.

I waited and waited, and finally I got a letter with an appointment, six weeks from the time the letter arrived. I had an appointment at St Barts for which I’d need to take a day off, because I was going in for a series of exams. I was incredibly lucky that all these exams would be done, and the results received on the same day. As I understand it had this happened back home it’s very possible I’d have been called in for each exam one appointment at a time, waiting for the results of each before being booked in for the next. Now #IlovetheNHS as much as the next girl but we all know this could take weeks, or months.

So I booked the day off work, and I held it together (mostly) and on the day, off I went.

The exams obviously involved easy access to my boob, so I had to wear a hospital gown and nothing else on my top half. This felt weird, especially the bits when I was sitting in the waiting room between exams, although I realised how stupid that was as I sat opposite a family gathered around a matriarch in an identical gown, obviously waiting for results that they were all trying not to think about. I like to think that she was waiting for the all clear, and she got it. I’m happy to imagine a happy ending, if I think about the alternative it feels like I’m jinxing something.

The first part was the manual exam. This was very strange, because I had to sit on a table while a man with a massive moustache, called Mister Mouhammed (honest to God) felt for the lump. There was a nurse there, presumably some kind of chaperone, but he was very professional and didn’t come across in any way creepy. That was quite an achievement with the moustache on him, but he managed it. Mister Mouhammed felt the lump and I thought, yes, I didn’t make it up you know, and then he told me that the next step was an ultrasound exam, and I was to wait in the waiting room.

And so I waited. And this was where I saw the family. I hope they’re all well.

Next I was called into a different room. I remember the room they tried to take me into had someone in it so we had to find another. The next part of the exam, the ultrasound, required me to lie on a table, and at this point I saw a lady doctor and her student, also a woman. The student got to do the exam bit, under the supervision and guidance of the actual doctor. I didn’t mind this, I never mind this unless the problem is something I’m genuinely mortified to have to discuss. I’m sure this is silly but it’s just the way it is. We all have our limits, no matter how much we want not to.

I lay on the table and the cold stuff was squirted on, and out came the ultrasound wand. It was just like the one you see on telly, when a pregnant woman is seeing her baby for the first time, or whatever. They saw the lump on the screen, and I was through to Biopsy Boot Camp. I wish I’d asked for a printout.

The biopsy took place straight after the ultrasound, the same doctors, the same room, I didn’t even have to get up. I was quite comfortable really, and doing my usual nervous thing of trying to make everyone else feel comfortable. I’m laughing and joking flat on my back, trying to find out what has formed a mass in my breast and not even knowing what the possibilities are.

First of all there was a little local anaesthetic. I was glad of that, because I’m aware that biopsy involves taking stuff *out* of the lump and I couldn’t help but picture those massive tubes they use for getting ice cores out of the Arctic, you know, the ones that are about a foot across and twenty feet long. I realise that a biopsy needle is much, much smaller, but you know how the mind works in these situations. However it damned well wants to.

The biopsy was done by the student, and it didn’t go as smoothly as one might have hoped. It took about five minutes to get the cells that were needed, which is a long time with a massive needle poking around in your boob. And poking around it was. Pokey pokey, wiggle it round a bit, and eventually, finally, it was done.

So I was allowed to get dressed, and I went and waited again, for the results. I think I had a book, I assume I had a book, I assume I read, I can’t picture myself sitting staring into space, I’m very rarely the staring into space type. Especially not when feeling stress or pressure, I tend to stare into space when I’m feeling contemplative and not under any kind of deadline whatsoever.

Finally I was approached by a doctor, I can’t remember which one, I can’t remember whether I was taken into a side room but I would assume so. It was explained to me that what I had was a fibroadenoma, which is completely benign, not in any way dangerous, or harmful, or cancer. I was handed a leaflet. I was told that we could arrange for the fibroadenoma to be removed if I wanted, or if it got bigger, or if it didn’t go away itself, because sometimes they do. But this was all said from the angle of  “it’s nothing, you can make something of it if you want to but it’s nothing”.

I left, I was very happy, I told my friend on Flickr, but I had nobody else to tell because I’d told nobody else about the scare. I didn’t want to worry anyone, and I thought, if I tell my mother or my sister they will worry, if I tell my workmates then it will be a bit too much information, I wasn’t close enough to them to be sharing boob news. So I had nobody nearby to share the good news with, but that was OK.

Four months later I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and I can’t help but wonder sometimes, given that nobody knows what triggers diabetes, did the stress of the lump have anything to do with it, play any small part whatsoever?

I still have my lump, and I keep feeling it, and it’s an odd feeling. On the one hand, before I found the lump I had always worried, what if there’s a lump and I don’t recognise it? Now I know what a lump feels like, I know I would recognise another one if I found it. On the other hand, I have this lump and every so often I feel it when I’m getting dressed, and I wish I didn’t. I may be covered in scars from being one of the clumsiest people in the world, but this is like a scar on the inside, there’s no funny story to recount when I point to it, it is just a thing that shouldn’t be there, a foreign body that my own body made from itself, making it not really foreign so much as an outsider in its own home. It is out of place and awkward and do I need it?

But then, do I need to have it removed? I don’t even know what my current doctor feels about the situation, so what I will do is I will make an appointment to go and speak to my new doctor, and ask what he or she thinks, and I think if I am offered the option, and if it can be done under local anaesthetic and let me sleep in my own bed that night, I might have it removed.

I am not attached to my lump, after all.

Advertisements

Remembrance

Today is Armistice Day.

Today is the 93rd anniversary of the end of the first World War, the Great War, the war that we must never forget, for reasons other than History. The war that happened in living memory. Not my living memory, but the memory of some who live.

I don’t know if, before WWI, people mourned those who fell in previous times of war. I don’t mean individually, because of course they grieved for those they loved and lost. I mean collectively, nationally, globally, grieved for the lost who they had never known, those whose families might never know the end of them, those who might not have had anyone to tell even if the end was known.

I don’t know if, before WWI, a woman would sit at her kitchen table and cry for the ancestors she had lost, ancestors she was never destined to meet regardless of what age they lived to see, ancestors who fell in the Jacobite Rising of 1745, or the American War of Independence, or the Napoleonic Wars. I don’t know if, before WWI, remembrance was personal or tribal or national or imperial.

I don’t mean to say that before Armistice Day people were unsympathetic or uncaring, although perhaps in times of war and places of war people become hardened to it, or at least, whilst feeling the loss, felt the purpose behind it, recognised the sacrifice made in the context in which it was made, appreciated the improvement that the sacrifice helped to bring about. Assuming that there was an improvement. Assuming that the sacrifice was made knowingly. Assuming that the lost went willingly.

Perhaps, in past times of war, so many were lost that grief could have brought the nation to its knees, were we to succumb to it. Perhaps this is why Armistice Day exists. To give us one day on which to feel the loss, all the loss, the vast, black hole of loss, so that the rest of the year we can just remember it. Remember it without always, always having to feel it.

Neither of my grandfathers fought in the Second World War, one was in Ireland and the other, I believe, had a weak heart. The First World War, however, decimated my ancestors. Those I know of include my great grandfather, the husband of the great grandmother I remember visiting on her 100th birthday, the woman who died at 103 waiting for a whisky having sent back a cup of tea with the words “I asked for a drink”, this woman’s husband lost his brother in France in 1918. A gravestone has been erected for him, my great uncle, Private John Martin 350600, at Vauxbuin, marked with the disclaimer that he is “believed to be buried in this cemetery.” His is one of three gravestones, dedicated to three of the 300 men buried there, only half of whom are identified.

For this I am grateful. A man I never knew, who I only ever would’ve known had he outlasted his natural life expectancy, a man who I might never have known anyway, because how many people actually know their grandparents’ siblings? I am grateful that there is a place for him, a marker for him, a remembrance of him, cold, hard, carved in rock by hand evidence that he was there, he lived, he fought, he died, he existed.

At this point I must confess my situation might be unusual. I only ever knew my maternal grandparents. My paternal grandfather died while my father was a child. My paternal grandmother died after my siblings and I were born, but before I was able to form any memories of her. My only memories of her are two-dimensional, pictures of her with a baby that I am told is me, a baby I am told is my sister, a toddler I can see is my brother. I don’t know whether my brother remembers her, I never asked. We never really talked about my father’s parents, when I was growing up. I can’t imagine what it must be like, he was orphaned by the time he was the age I am now.

I’ve never thought of it that way before.

Another great grandmother, my mother’s mother’s mother, lost three brothers at Passchendaele, although there is no record or knowledge in the family of precisely where, or when, or how. My maternal grandparents were just my grandparents. There was granny, and there was grandad. I have no idea, had I had two of each, what they would be called. I never understood why people had grannies and grandads and nannies and popses and nanas and papas and why do they need such odd names for their granny and grandad? I geniunely don’t believe I ever thought anything of it, the fact that I only had one of each, I genuinely don’t think I realised my family wasn’t the same as everyone else’s.

Not that I’m calling for sympathy, some people have four grandparents, some people have eight, some have none, I just had two.

But more and more as I got older, I think about those I never knew. I know my dad moved around a lot growing up, I have no idea where his father died, where he’s buried, whether he’s buried. By the time his mother died he was living in the house I grew up, but I have no idea where she was, where she died, where she’s buried, whether she’s buried. I know where my great uncle, who died in 1918, is buried. I’m not even sure what year my grandmother died in.

On Armistice Day, I cry. I observe the two minute silence, whether or not those around me observe it, I sit or stand, in silence, I think, and I cry. I think about the people who never came home, my great grandmother who never knew what came of her brothers, only that they never came home from a place, not even which day was their last, whether any of them felt the loss of his brothers before he was sent to them, whether they even knew. I don’t even know whether they were together, whether what ranks they held, I don’t even know their names.

I cry for my great grandfather, whose brother never came home. I cry for my great grandmother, whose brothers never came home, whose brothers are forgotten in all but the fact of their existence and their sacrifice, whose brothers’ names I don’t know, and I should know, I should know and I should remember and I should never forget. I don’t want to ever forget.

I think about my grandfathers who never went to war and I am selfishly, astoundingly grateful for the nationality of one and the fragility of the other. Had they gone to war, my parents might not exist. Or they might exist, the scarred children of traumatised soldiers, or the relatively well-balanced children of soldiers who never talked about it, or the perfectly average children of soldiers with amazing coping mechanisms.

But I don’t just cry for me and my family. I think about me, and I think about my family, and I imagine what it must be like to feel these things at a distance of less than 93 years and three generations. I imagine how it might be to lose your brother, your dad, your uncle. I imagine how it might feel to have a brother, dad or uncle at war and not to know whether he was going to come home. Not to know whether that was already settled and you just hadn’t been notified yet. Most of all, not to know. I imagine how it would feel not to know. To know enough to know that what you don’t know is awful, but fundamentally not to know.

I don’t think about the futility of war, or the politics, or the right or the wrong or the outcome or the consequences. I think about the people, the individuals, the ones who never came home, the ones whose families never knew why, the ones who were never buried, never identified, perhaps lie still where nobody has ever looked. The ones who knew what faced them, who laid bleeding in a muddy field full of their friends and their foes and prayed that their families would receive word that they didn’t suffer, prayed someone would lie for them. The ones who went to war voluntarily not realising what they were volunteering for, the ones who regretted it on arrival, after time, or never at all, believing to the end that their sacrifice was right and proper.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori?

The survivors, those who saw their comrades killed or injured, their neighbours, their friends, their brothers, their twins, their fathers and sons. They saw this but they survived. They survived untouched or they barely survived at all, but they made it home and their family, because this must be how they saw each other, didn’t. Not only to suffer the loss that we all felt and feel, but to watch it happen, to see them bleed, to see them die, perhaps even to feel their last breath in their arms, on their faces, under the hands of their would-be rescuers.

I realise this is all very morbid, but this is what I think about, and this is why I cry.
Because it’s not about the concept of war, it’s about the people. What the people went through, and what they lived through. And what didn’t kill them, did it make them stronger? Or did it break them, are they broken? How can they get through the day? What does it take?

It takes something I can’t even conceive of. A strength I can’t even imagine.

How much better is the world for their sacrifice? Obviously in the short term the outcome was the necessary one, the one that the world needed, it worked out well in the end. But evaluating life, even trying to imagine whether the loss of life was ‘worth it’, is ever worth it, I think this requires the ability to think about it without imaging the individuals, without thinking about your great uncle John, without thinking about your great grandmother’s nameless brothers.

I don’t want to minimise the work of soldiers, or say what they do is unimportant or unnecessary. The world can be a better place, and at the moment we don’t know how to make that happen, so we go to war to try to extinguish evil, insofar as we are able, and we lose men and we lose women and men and women come home blind or missing limbs or scarred mentally but those damaged to whatever degree made the choice to put themselves out there, possibly thinking of their own loved ones and what they want to save them from, and thanks to them the world is a better place, one way or another. What they do is clearly of vital importance to them, the soldiers, and whatever you need to do needs to be done, whatever you are willing to sacrifice is your willing sacrifice.

Whatever is important to you is important.

Wear a poppy, don’t wear a poppy, I don’t care. Sometimes I don’t buy a poppy, it’s not a statement, it just means I haven’t happened upon anywhere selling them, or noticed it at least. If I realise, I buy a poppy, and I wear it. But the poppy is not what’s important to me.

What is important to me is people.

Giles Coren posted this youtube link on Twitter earlier today, to a song I had never heard. I listened to it when I got to work, at my desk, and I wept. I don’t think it’s that well sung, or that musically brilliant, but the sentiment and the emotion made me cry until my eyes stung. If you want to remember, if you want to think, about the people and about the loss and about the memories, listen to this song, and think about someone, and weep if you must.

Rest In Peace, John Martin and all the others, be they remembered by name or without or in nothing but the imagination of the living.

Stress

The other day I wrote a blog post about cat poo. This was in part because I was feeling very stressed, and wanted to take my mind off it by rambling about the first thing that came to mind.

Unfortunately, for now all that is in my mind is stress, so I thought I would write a blog about that. Rather than taking my mind off it, I think I need to talk through it. Maybe if I go through the whole thing I will understand it, and that will help me survive it. Maybe if I stop letting it play in my head like Memento, all out of order and cut and paste and choppy and random and untenable, maybe I will spot the patterns and force them to their logical conclusion. Which may be Worst Case Scenario, or may be Probably OK, or may be Not The End Of The World Either Way.

I will try not to talk about what is happening specifically, because frankly that will send me off into the spiral. So hopefully this will be all about the feelings that happen when I’m thinking about it, and when I’m not thinking about it. Because that happens too, you know.

It’s like when you’ve just lost a loved one, or broken up with someone, or blown your paycheque on a three-legged greyhound. It’s just like in the movies. You wake up and everything’s OK, although there is a niggling feeling that you’ve forgotten something. You never wake up and it’s just exactly like nothing’s wrong, not when something’s wrong, there’s always something that reminds you. Before it’s told you what it is, it tells you that there’s something. Then you remember the what, and you think for a second, and your face drops, and you start to breathe a little bit faster, and you think, no, NO, stop it, stop thinking about that, you don’t have to think about that, so change the subject.

Quick, another subject.

OK, look at the cat, isn’t he sweet? He’s all cuddly and snuggly and he’s saying hello and he loves me. Maybe if I do this then that problem will go away.

NO, STOP IT! THINK ABOUT THE CAT! LOOK AT THE CAT!

Shit. The cat’s not going to do it. Get up. Get up, move around. Focus on getting up. Moving around. Getting dressed. Where are your socks? What socks are clean? How come all the comfy socks are in the laundry basket? How come I have so many uncomfy socks? If I hadn’t spent so much money on shitty socks maybe I’d have the money for

STOP IT! LOOK AT THE CAT!

Shit, where’s the cat? He’s gone. Even the cat can’t bear to be around me. I’m such an idiot. I’m letting things get to me, things that don’t even matter, and I’m pissing off the cats. Nothing matters enough to get to me this much, what could possibly be so important that I have to count my breaths to make sure I’m still breathing? Nothing is that important.

Except, of course, for if that doesn’t go your way and then you might end up

STOP IT. WHERE IS THE FUCKING CAT?

CAT? WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

OK, so now I’m shouting at the cat? For what, for not being there to distract me? So now I’m BLAMING the cat for me being pissed off, like as if the reason I’m pissed off, the sole and only reason, is the lack of sodding cat?

Leave the cat alone and get on with the day.

So I get on with my day. I get up, get dressed, put the kettle on, brush my teeth, worry about whether I need to see a dentist, because when I’m in this state anything and everything that could concievably go wrong would make it all ten times worse so those are the things that come to mind when I manage to avoid thinking about the thing that’s actually ruining me, breaking my brain, making me wish I was just a better person, because better people don’t go through this, do they? Better people have stress for good reason, like illness or bereavement or being abducted by Somali pirates or something, not nonsense about stupid little things like

CAT.

I make a sandwich and I put it in tupperware and I go to the bus stop and I kiss my man goodbye, and I get on the bus and I stare out the window focussing on houses and shops and people and dogs and joggers and buses and drivers and traffic lights and I think about can I really afford next week’s bus pass, can I walk to work from here, it would take a couple of hours probably but maybe if I save that money then

CAT.

I get to work and I log onto my computer and I see e-mails telling me to do things, e-mails asking me to do things, e-mails asking me to explain things, e-mails expecting me to know things and if I don’t know them to find them out, which is good, I like finding things out, it’s what I do, but I don’t have time to find out all the things I have to find out, even if I didn’t already have everything to do I still wouldn’t have the time free and the space free in my brain to find out all these new things and then communicate them to everyone else and why is it I’m the only person that ever finds things out, why can’t other people find things out, I’m really not so special, is it just because they don’t have time, and if so, what gives anyone the idea that I do?

So I don’t know where to start, which e-mail do I read first, which thing do I find out first, which person do I teach something to first, where do I start? I don’t know. And when I don’t know where to start, I don’t know where to finish.

My eyes feel heavy and bruised and I find myself rubbing them a lot. I don’t know where to start and I don’t know where to finish. I can’t find my Nurofen and my head is killing me. And my eyes hurt. And I don’t know where to start.

So I go to a meeting to discuss how everything is going. And I say, not so well, actually, but when asked why, I don’t know where to start.

I feel like I’m making a fuss, and I needn’t, I’m just being silly, but then I find I don’t know where to finish.

I can’t finish my sentences. I can’t remember my words. I’m trying to explain how I’m getting on with something I’ve been doing for weeks, and I can’t remember my words. I can’t remember what the word is for what I’ve been doing.

The word is “audiovisual”.

Eventually I remember it. And the other person in the meeting is looking concerned, but I feel like the look is disappointed. And I know it’s not, I know it’s concerned. The problem is that I feel disappointing.

So my meeting ends, with the reassurance that I am to focus on this one thing, everything else can wait, if I feel that I don’t know where to start, I am to start with this one thing, and the rest, if I can slot it in that’s good, in whatever order I want, all I need to think about is this one thing.

And every so often I keep thinking about what’s going to happen if

CAT.

So I go back to my desk and more e-mails and once in a while the phone rings and it’s more. More to do and more to think about, and more for me not to know where to start and not to know where to finish. And I try to focus on the thing I was told to focus on. But that was before the phone rang.

The day ends and I get ready to leave. I go and I wait for the bus. I wonder if there is anything in the house for me to cook for tea. I imagine there probably is. In my head I run through the entire contents of my fridge, freezer and cupboards and construct a set of options. A menu. I don’t know where to start and where to finish, I can’t remember my words, but I’m on a bus constructing a fucking menu.

I get on the bus. I might get a seat, I might not. Someone on the bus is playing their music too loudly. Someone on the bus is eating crisps with their mouth open. The bus driver is whistling and tapping his wedding ring on the ticket machine in time with the tune he is whistling. The woman next to me keeps elbowing me in the ribs. The man in front keeps kicking my feet. There’s a woman with a pushchair and nobody will make room for her. I feel like I should make room for her but the seat I’m in is no bloody use, what am I thinking?

I get off the bus. I walk past the pet shop and I worry about the cats. I was mean to the cats earlier, I should say sorry when I get home. Shut up, they don’t care, they got breakfast so they still love me. As I get closer to home I hope my man is there because I love him and he makes me happy and he makes me feel better and somehow he manages not to get pissed off with me even when I’m like this. He makes me feel like I’m not disappointing.

Still, I feel disappointing.

I get home, I get a cuddle. I sit down, I worry. I think about all the things I need to do and I’m not doing them and why am I not doing them? Who do I think I am that I can just get home and sit down? What kind of person does that? A lazy, selfish person. No wonder

CAT.

I get up, I make dinner. I worry about the dinner being OK, but as I’m cooking I focus on what’s cooking, I like making macaroni cheese because cheese sauce needs concentration. It takes all my brain. I don’t need to know where to start and where to finish. If it starts to thicken, I add more milk. That’s an absolute.

I like cheese sauce.

I sit down in front of the TV. I am trying to watch what’s on, but in my head I keep coming up with all the things I blamed the cat for not taking my mind off earlier.

And now the cats are all over me, both of them, Margot is on my knees and Jerry is at my ankles, and they both want their ears scratched and I want to scratch their ears and my phone buzzes and it’s a text about

CAT

and suddenly I’m pissed off at the cats for being in my way because Margot won’t let me answer the text because she wants her fucking ears scratched and I don’t have time for that shit and she jumps off my knee and I send the text and I go and apologise and she forgives me immediately and I don’t deserve that because I am a moody bitch and I feel disappointing.

I have a conversation but I can’t really keep track and I can’t hear and I can’t remember my words.

I go to bed, I snuggle up warm, and somehow I sleep until my alarm wakes me up.

And then I worry that I’m not taking it seriously enough, because I’m not losing sleep.

Because all I need is another thing to worry about.


Disclaimer: I just have a lot in my head at the moment. Work is OK, I can handle work. Home is OK, I can handle home. Stuff is OK, I can handle stuff. Unfortunately I have work, home and stuff all at the same time, and this is why I am going loopy. Nobody is *making* me loopy. No blame here. Love you all.

Cat poo

I’m having a bit of a funny phase at the moment, I’m feeling very stressed and it’s making me a bit loopy, so I thought I would use the opportunity to write a blog on a subject that, I feel, is woefully under-represented in today’s media. I fully expect it to be syndicated in the Observer.

The subject is cat poo.

I have two cats. They were adopted from the RSPCA, named Jojo and Shelby, a short-haired white girl with black markings, and a very very ginger boy with slightly shifty eyes, the tiniest bit too close together. They are both gorgeous and now, after quite some time spent gaining their trust and giving them food, and never ever hitting them and training them to come home when I clap, they love us lots and lots. I suspect part of the love was also earned by changing their names from Jojo and Shelby to Margot and Jerry, collectively known as the Leadbetters.

Margot’s always been sociable, anyone could walk into our house and sit down and within a matter of minutes Margot would most likely be on their lap. Jerry isn’t really big on sitting on people, but he has taken to miaowing at us, and rubbing his face on us, and he jumps on the bed in the morning to say hello, and plays with my shoelaces when I’m trying to tie them and steals Pete’s socks when he’s trying to put them on. He’s getting used to us, and seems quite contented.

The problem is the poo. For all I know, Jerry might never poo, whereas Margot has something evil living in her guts, for when she poos, a layer a few molecules thick is stripped from the walls, our sinuses, the outer skin of our eyeballs… she is a smelly pooer.

Not only is Margot a smelly pooer, but she is also weirdly houseproud about the litter tray. I am, occasionally, woken in the night by the sound of her rearranging the litter, scratching around in there, presumably before she drops a P-bomb but she really takes her time about it. When I change the litter, which I tend to do outside because it’s a bit like Pandora’s box insofar as whatever is released when the lid comes off, you can’t take it back, the second I finish pouring the fresh litter in, Margot will jump in, usually before I’ve even got the lid back on. She’ll hop in and start scratching the stuff around, usually before christening it with an inaugural poo of alarming toxicity.

The litter tray in our house sits in the hallway, which is the best space we have for cats to poo in without them pooing in a room we’re likely to be sitting, sleeping or cooking in anytime soon. Unfortunately this means that once a poo has occurred, we either have to close all the doors to seal it off, or hold our breath until it dissipates.

I recently had a brainwave on this.

I have a roll of scented binbags which I use when I clean out or completely empty the litter tray. It’s pissing into the wind, if you’ll excuse the particularly appropriate cliché, but they are smaller than normal binbags and therefore perfect, really, for this purpose. When Margot did a particularly terrible poo last week, I, in my delirium, grabbed a bag off the roll and draped it across the litter tray entrance. It’s held over the door (hole) by the box of cat food that sits on top of the litter tray, and forms enough of a seal to make the hallway mostly habitable again.

Luckily Margot has a weird obsession with bags, and she’s perfectly happy to swipe it out of the way to get in and out, without getting stuck or destroying the bag or freaking out.

I have created a hazmat environment, and it works.

Now more about Margot and bags. She just loves bags. If she sees a handbag she’ll try to figure out what’s inside, if she sees a rucksack she might even try to climb in, but shopping bags and binbags are her absolute favourite.

Shopping bags, be they plastic or canvas or that funny plastic-backed jute stuff, she loves them. She will scratch them, bat them around, stomp around on them to try to work out what’s inside, even try to climb in to see what’s what, and if she gets bored, or tired, or feels like chilling out for a bit, she will curl up on the bag and take a little nap.

As I type this I’m sitting in the living room, surrounded by mess because I’m going through everything to throw as much of it out as I can, in preparation for moving house sometime soon. I also have binbags, because whatever I throw out, I can’t be doing with a million Tesco bags. Margot has just done her little dance on the binbags, and taken her little nap.

Jerry is completely different. He will sniff things, and he’s curious but he doesn’t seem to care what’s in bags. This might be partly to do with the noise that bags make, Jerry’s not good with noise all of a sudden right up in his face.

This is a bit odd, actually, because we think Jerry might be a bit deaf. He doesn’t really react to noises from certain angles, some noises that freak him out right in his face, he won’t even notice if they come from behind him. This is why I started trying to get his attention by clapping, and it worked. I assume the noise of a clap reverberates around the walls in the area of the house, ends up coming from an angle he’s aware of, and he reacts to it.

We seem to have trained the cats to come home when they’re called, only they don’t answer to their names, but they answer when I clap. It’s quite sweet, really, I stand in the back garden and clap, and in a minute or two the cats appear from over a wall or on top of next door’s scaffolding or behind the shed, and up they trot wanting their dinner. It’s very cute.

So there you go. Cat poo. Cat poo, and all that goes along with it. I hope you’ve enjoyed.

I have decided to start a new blog for when I want to spout just Any Old Crap.

This isn’t about diabetes. And it’s not about being clumsy. This is just about the ramblings of this oddball.

Bring it.