Friday, 30 December 2011

Update on Tybalt

As those who follow me on Twitter will have seen, Tybalt had a further vet appointment this afternoon.

It was very encouraging. He's put on 600g ( over 1lb 4 oz) in the 10 days since he started on the thyroid medication, which is a pretty good sign that it is working.

Also his glucose levels are in the 'normal' range, which suggests that either he doesn't have diabetes, or that he does, but when he is eating normally and in better health generally it's stable.

We're going back in 2 weeks, when they will do further blood tests to check on his thyroid (by which time he will have been on the meds for a month) and see whether the dosage needs adjusting, but so far, things are looking much better than I feared, 2 weeks ago.

Thank gods for sardines!

Holidays & Family

I've been away, at my parents' house over Christmas, and didn't take my laptop, hence no blogging (Blogging by phone leads to SHORT posts!)

It was a lovely, relaxing time. My younger sister, and my brother were both there, too (My elder sister was with her out-laws) On Christmas Eve we decorated the tree  (we also decorated my brother, in order to allow him to prove to sceptical friends that he can do Festive if he wishes, but I promised not to post that particular photo on the internet, so you will have to imagine it!)

The tree was decorated to within an inch of its life. We have 40 years worth of decorations, and E declared that the aim was to make it "As gaudy as possible".  I think it's fair to say we met those specifications!

On Christmas Day, my parents and I went to the church, to ring the bells. Ringing is a long term hobby of theirs, and all four of  us were taught, as a matter of course, as children, but none of us currently rings regularly.

When my mum and dad moved down to Devon, after retiring, there was no regular band in the village, but a little over a year ago, they agreed to teach a local band.

The learners have now reached the point where they can ring rounds (i.e. all 6 bells ringing together) and this is the first Christmas they have been able to ring for Christmas Morning.

I went along to help out, and I recorded a snatch of the ringing when I wasn't joining in. It isn't great ringing (The aim is for the bells to ring evenly, with the same gap between each 'strike', but this is very good considering how short a time they have been learning, and the fact that they've all been learning together - it is much easier if you are the one learner and everyone else can just ring in the right place regardless of whether or not you do!)

The village church had been decorated for Christmas - there were around 30 different trees - I think all of the different groups, such as the pre-school, the school etc. had all decorated trees, and others were themed. Guess which of the three below was the bell-ringers' tree?

My mum and I stayed for the service (partly to support one of the ringers, who was leading it, as a lay-reader) which I enjoyed, even though I prefer the Prayer Book and King James' Bible to 'Mission Praise' and and 'Good News'. We got 3 proper carols, which is pretty much all I ask of a Christmas day service!

Then home, to open stockings (with no children in the house, not everyone was keen to wake up early to open them before we went to church!) traditional Christmas Dinner (with wonderful free-range, slow reared turkey) then lots of presents.

My siblings had clubbed together and got me a shiny new Kindle, which was a very nice surprise. I have been thinking for a while I'd like to have one, as, much as I love real paper books, there are times, especially when travelling, that it would be nice NOT to have to carry quite so many books..
 Mind you, I did only get 2 actual books for Christmas this year, which is something of a record for me. And one as a belated birthday present (The Heston Blumenthal / Dave McKean '|Fat Duck Cookbook' - beautiful, if impractical)

Then on Boxing Day we played host to my Uncle and Aunt, and to my cousin, her husband and their 14 month old son, who I haven't seen since he was 3 months old. |He's much bigger now, and crawling very fast. He was fascinated by the Christmas Tree, but as there were 9 adults around he was thwarted in all his attempts to clamber up it or take things off it!  I particularly enjoyed watching him with my brother and my dad (both of whom are very good with small children, despite their best efforts to pretend otherwise!)

then on Thursday we went over to my Aunt and Uncle's house to see them again, with my *other* cousin, her husband and their 2 boys. Much fun was had.

All in all, a very quiet, but enjoyable Christmas. I hope eveyone else enjouyed their holidays.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas again. I'm down at my parent's home, as are one on my sisters, and my brother.

We have decorated the tree (as you can see, we considered restraint and subtlety, and decided neither has any role to play in tree-decoration)

Shortly, some of us will be going to ring the bells at church, and to a service.

Later, there will be gifts, and food, and chocolate, and jollity of all kinds.

Here's wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all manner of good things and great company!

Monday, 19 December 2011


As some of you know from twitter, I've been very worried about Tybalt. Last week, he suddenly got very sick, was peeing indoors (which clearly upset him; he's generally very good about going where he ought to - and I wasn't overjoyed, either) and generally very obviously not a happy kitty.

We went to the vet on Friday. She gave him an antibiotic shot in case the peeing was down to a water infection, but after examining him said she thought he has thyroid problems, and probably that he'd been under par for a bit, but not showing it, the way carts do (or don't).

She took blood to test, which, like the rest of the exam, Tybalt let her do without even trying to get away from her, which is VERY out of character - usually visits to the vet involve hissing, (which I've never seen him do anywhere else) and strenuous efforts to get away, including that thing cats do where they temporarily grow about 7 extra legs all covered in knives, and show their ability to levitate and to double in size.  So the fact that he was simply sitting there apathetically letting her stick needles into him was a very bad sign.

We also had a conversation about what the next steps would be if the blood tests showed he does have thyroid problems. The answer is that this needs regular meds, which worried me a lot, as Tybalt has NEVER been  a cat who it's easy to get tablets into, and I would have to think very carefully about whether it would be fair to subject him to the stress of forcing tablets into him on a daily basis, as I know from experience that he does get very stressed, and remains stressed for a long time.

On the plus side, he seemed to perk up a lot over the weekend, and the peeing issue stopped, so I think maybe he did have a water infection as well.

This afternoon I got a call from the vet - his blood tests show that he does have hyperthyroidism. They also showed low glucose level so he may also be diabetic (apparently they often go together)  They have suggested starting him on the thyroid tablets - basically, IF he can/will take the tablets without too much stress, they can then do urine tests for diabetes to see whether he does have this, and then monitor  to see whether he needs insulin or if it can be controlled by diet. They also said that if he cannot take the tablets without stress, it would be unfair to him to let him go on. Which is rather what I suspected, from the conversation I had when I took him in on Friday, but not at all what I wanted to hear.

So there's a lot of bad news.

So they have given me 2 weeks supply of the thyroid tablets to see whether he can/will take them (2 weeks due to Christmas. If he doesn't take them, we will have to go back sooner)

The good news is that while he spurned with barely-disguised scorn my attempts to get the 1st tablet into him cunningly disguised in cat-food, or in marmite (vets suggestion), or cheese (end result, one slightly damp and sticky tablet, and one smug cat with a mouth full of marmite and cheese) I then tried a two-pronged approach, involving a sardine, and my sitting at table with a plate (because people-food is always more attractive than cat-food)

So, three lumps of sardine, (tablet tucked into the 2nd and left to sit for a few minutes so the sardine oil soaked in a bit) this actually seems to have worked. He did look a bit suspicious afterwards, but he ate the third chunk of sardine, so that may simply be because he thought he'd got away with more people-food than normal.

Clearly he's not out of the woods yet - I don't know whether sardines will work long-term, and there's still the issue of whether he has diabetes and if so whether this can be controlled by diet, but things are looking much more hopeful than they were 3 days ago.

So, fingers crossed.

And thank you to those of you who've been sending encouragement and sympathy.

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Holidays Are Coming

It feels as though it's been a long week - I've been busy at work, and this past week has involved a lot of time out of the office, driving to court and meetings, which is tiring.

Friday night was our office Christmas Party - I wasn't feeling terribly festive but I think it went reasonably well. The Christmas trees are up in our receptions, at work, and the lights are up in the town centres, and I am beginning to look forward to seeing my family, and have done most of my shopping. Having lots of cards to send to friends in America spurred me on to organise myself, in order to catch the last posting date, so my inland cards went pretty promptly, too (am now sitting back, to wait for the first card to show up from someone I've forgotten to send one to, or for whom I don't have an address.....

Next task is to pack up the gifts for people I won't be seeing, in order to post them. This is bound to involve a lot of queueing, I fear..

Today, my (2nd) cousin came over for lunch, and to drop of gifts for my family and my (1st) cousins, who I shall be seeing and she won't. it was a nice lunch, though I do say so myself. I made Beouf Bourgignon, served with jacket potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower. And as a bonus, I find there are enough lefftovers for me to have it again, another day, which I was not expecting!

I have been having some issues with my central heating, which I only realised when it got very cold earlier this week - I found that one (the biggest - it would be) of my 3 radiators wasn't getting hot. I thought that |step one would be to bleed it, and this caused me to realise that, to my shame, I've never done this and had no idea how it was done. Fortunately, Twitter knows everything, so I got answers within minutes, and then had to go out and buy a radiator key ( and picked up a spare heater at the same time, to tide me over) Unfortunately, bleeding it does not seem to have worked as far as acheiving actual warmth is concerned (although it worked quite well as far as getting dirty water around the living room was concerned!)

I belive that the next step is flushing it and add inhibitor, but I think I shall need a plumber for that step. *sigh* Still, at least I have plug-in heater I just bought, to prevent me getting hypothermia in the mean time. (and over Christmas I shall be staying with my parents, and they have lots and lots of loverly central heating, even upstairs!)

I think next weekend I shall perhaps get further into the festive spirit by making some mince pies.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

In Which There is a Moving Castle (WARNING - SPOILERS)

I love Diana Wynne Jones' books. I have done for years and years, since I first met Christopher Chant in Wells library. I hunted down all of her books which I could find, (many 2nd hand) and  later, buying then new, as they were published. I had the pleasure of meeting her once, at the Bath Festival of Children's Literature, and she sent me a lovely, personal reply when I wrote her a fan letter.

So I was excited and nervous in equal measure when I found out that there was to be a stage adaptation of 'Howl's Moving Castle', one of DWJ's YA books.
(Picture from theatre website - )

I have a very soft spot for Howl, and for Sophie, and so while I was excited to see how the story would work on stage, I was also afraid that it would be spoiled, or that whoever played Howl might be un-Howl-like...

But I decided that I would have to see it for myself, and judge, so I got in contact with my theatre-going, retired librarian cousin, and booked tickets for the production, at the Southwark Playhouse. And that is where I went, yesterday.

The play was in the Vault, at the playhouse, which is a very small space, under the railway arch near London Bridge station.

Good start: The set consisted of a couple of burning torches, and then, in the stage area, a large castle, like a paper cut out. There was very little in the way of props - all of the rest of the set and scenery was done by way of lighting and projections, so when the Castle was moving, we had a panorama of mountains, at other times, the streets of Market Chipping, fantastical bare trees with living branches for the Witch's domain, and moving light for Calcifer. When Howl went to fight the Witch, the castle had (projected) propellers, and Howl's silhouette was projected - All the 'son et lumiere' parts of the production were excellent.

The play itself is but a shadow of the novel. There are only 3 actors (plus a recorded narration from Stephen Fry, and the voice of Calcifer) - Howl (Daniel Ings), Old Sophie (Susan Sheridan) and Young Sophie/Witch of the Waste (Kristen McGuire) and play lasts for less than 90 minutes, so the story has, inevitably and of necessity, been hugely cut and simplified.

I rather enjoyed Howl. He had more or less the right combination of cleverness and vanity, although I didn't feel his underlying goodness came through. I felt (old) Sophie came across well - determined, and more than a match for Howl,  but the Witch of the Waste was simply a pantomime villain - you expected her to start sending for her flying monkeys at any moment, which was a bit disappointing.

Over all, I felt that the play had tried for the feel of DWJs work, and had succeeded, up to a point, but only up to a point.For me, too much of the plot, and as a result, too many of the things which make the book so good, had gone.

I enjoyed it, but I felt that it had lost a lot in the adaptation. I still love the book best. So, if you have the opportunity, do see it. It's fun, and much more interesting than your average chirstmas pantomime, but it's not DWJ's story.

In Which I Go To London

I went to London yesterday. The purpose was to go to the theatre (which I'll blog separately) and to meet up with my cousin and his partner.

We were due to meet up at 1p.m., I got an earlier train, to allow time for delays, so of course both trains were on time, and the tubes round from Paddington to London Bridge were also all delay-free. So, having a little time on my hands, I took the time to wander around Southwark a little.

I visited Southwark cathedral, because I like cathedrals, and this one of course makes me think of Doctor Who (The Lazarus Experiment) although of course the interior scenes of that episode were not filmed at Southwark Cathedral, but in my old home town of Wells!

 The cathedral has a rather nice memorial to Shakespeare (the Globe theatre was, and the new Globe is, in Southwark)

You can't tell from the photo, but behind the effigy is a relief of Southwark, with the Globe.

I then wandered along the Thames path, past the replica of Drake's 'Golden Hinde' and further along, towards tower Bridge, HMS Belfast and the Tower of London.

I confess, it's a while since I've been on this part of the river, and I'd totally forgotten that the Tower of London was so close to Tower Bridge (I am somewhat geographically challenged at the best of times, and when you add in the fact that most of my London travel is done by underground, it's perhaps understandable!)

I enjoyed the contrasts between old and new buildings; this area has been through a lot of regeneration and is clearly doing well.

We had arranged to meet for lunch at the Butler's Wharf Chop House, where we dined very well, and I had some delicious black sheep ale, then had a chilly walk back along the Thames to the Southwark Playhouse.

(More photos in  my flickr set here )