I was sitting here last night, laughing at the antics of my insane pets, when I thought they might be a little light relief to blog about, at a time when all of us could do with a little light in our lives. The world outside my walls has gone crazy, and I will continue to fight in it, but just for a while, let’s draw into this safe space and allow ourselves a few moments to smile.
I have five pets (six if you count the boy, but I’m told I can’t, so five) – Three cats, a dog and a dragon. Yes, a dragon. Smaug. Let’s introduce him first.
Smaug is a beautiful, bearded dragon, with one eye. Yes, he’s a one eyed dragon. Long story short, when we went to get Efan his dragon he heard mention of one that had lost an eye because of abuse by a previous owner and immediately had to have him. Even though we went away to wait for the new delivery of adult dragons, we had to go back the very next day because Efan was absolutely set on this one, even before meeting him. He’d practically cried all night because he was so sad about the dragon no one wanted. HE wanted him, and so Smaug became a valued member of the family.
For some reason, I had thought lizards of all kinds to be quite boring. I mean, what do they do? Just sit there and blink and eat worms. Hmm. Well that is kind of all that Smaug does, but he does it with such flair. He also swims, climbs all over Efan, like’s to sit on his head, and absolutely recognizes the sound of his voice.
When we first had Smaug, in an attempt to be a good Dragon Mommy, I got the little angel some locusts. NEVER AGAIN! OMG those things are gross. The glare at you as if accusing you of being an evil murderer, which of course I was, then make obvious attempts at garnering mercy by fighting so goddam hard to live! I have a quiver even thinking about it. They lost major sympathy though when one escaped and creeped the hell out of me by how they can cling upside down to things. Half an hour of squeals and tantrums later I was more than happy to feed the bloody thing to the dragon, and it could look at me all it liked. Come to think of it I believe that look was a curse rather than a plea, a dare even.
As a complete aside, have you SEEN the Dragon Caterpillar? It’s one amazing little creature. The moths that come from them are awesome, too but these little fellas are just…
Next, shall we introduce Bella, the dog
Bella is a cross Whippet and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. She loves the world and is persistently joyful, in the face of many trials – more of which we shall come to later.
Bella is Efan’s dog, and she worships him, probably just a little more than he worships her. Never has a boy and his dog been so close and so dippy.
Let me just tell you one thing about Bella – she has VERY sharp claws. I don’t think Efan owns a single piece of clothing that doesn’t contains holes, and as for bedding…. The problem is that we can’t do anything about it. The vet can only cut her claws so far because she bleeds like a stuck pig if they get it a little wrong. I’m scared to death she’s going to jump up on a visitor and shred their best clothes. I suppose I should get a sign. “Beware of the Dog” I suppose I wouldn’t have to entirely define what visitors need beware of “Beware of the Dog – who will try to show you how much she absolutely adores you by leaping all over you tearing clothes and skin indiscriminately.” Doesn’t really run off the tongue and there’s not that much room on a sign.
Bella is a strange dog. She loves to dress up
Is part Demon
And thinks she’s a cat, and can sit on the back of the sofa behind your shoulder like the cats do
She also thinks she can sit on your lap, fit into a small box, many other things which are objectively insane. To be fair to Bella, she has to share her home with three small, furry demons, one of which is her arch nemesis.
Cue demonic music
This brings us nicely on to the subject of the cats. We have three. Between them they are – cute, soft, fluffy, adorable, manic, evil, demonic, bratty, spiteful, grubby, “special”, persistent, loving, mean, crazy, disgusting and absolutely own the house.
I suppose we should start with out first, first so to speak.
Merlin is now around 13 years old and the only cat we had from birth (practically) She is – how shall I put it – a special snowflake. We were forced to take her at four or five weeks, a couple of weeks sooner than I wanted. She and her sister both fit in one of my hands, they were so small. Strangely, her sister, Gandalf (yes, we thought they were both boys at the beginning) was the runt of the litter and much smaller than Merlin, but she was a right little fighter and so much brighter. She once brought in a rat that was bigger than she was. I wasn’t appreciative of the dead rat in the middle of the floor but was very proud of the cat.
Merlin, on the other hand is…special. She is unable to retract her claws so rather than a padding, stealthy huntress she’s more of a clacking princess tottering around on her high heels and batting her eyelashes. She’s such a pretty little thing but she dribbles like crazy so it’s impossible to snuggle properly without drowning.
Merlin is definitely the clumsiest of our cats. She can’t quite judge distance so it takes her a couple of tries to get up on things, and then often ends in a scrabble, and faceplants on a depressingly regular basis. We’ve had to put a ladder outside our bathroom so she can get in and out of the window like the other cats.
Our special little Merlin likes boxes. Any box will do, no matter how big or small. As soon as the box goes down, Merlin sniffs around. This happened almost as we were taking out the contents.
Last night, the incident which prompted this blog post occurred. We had a big box in our living room. It was a very big box, so big Efan could fit into it. Merlin had been eyeing the box for a while, walking around, sniffing, and finally climbing onto the back of the chair to have a look inside. There was some wrapping paper and a few pieces of card, nothing much. Two of the flaps were down – one on the back and one on the side.
After watching for a while, Merlin must have made up her mind it was safe, and jumped. She clearly intended to land on the flap, which admittedly looked fairly solid, so she could get a better look inside. The problem was that the flap wasn’t solid and it gave way under her tipping her into the box with a flurry, some strange mewling sounds and a thump.
Bad furbaby mummy that I am, I almost wet myself laughing before checking she was okay. In the meantime she starts scrabbling and growling, and the next thing I know she has the box on its side and rolls out like a Tribble. I had SUCH a glare before she stalked off.
Charlie, our middle cat is special in a completely different way. If he were human he’d be James Bond. Talk about suave. He doesn’t walk, he sashays and he knows exactly what to do to get good attention. He’s long, fluffy and sleek with amazing eyes and the kind of personality that would see him tear a bird to shreds in one moment, then allow himself to be dressed as a baby and pushed around in a pram the next.
Sure, while you’re doing that he’d be looking at you in a way that makes it clear he’s plotting out exactly what he’s going to do to you when cats take over the world
Charlie came to us as a fully grown cat. He was originally Efan’s father’s cat, but came to us when Ian moved to a flat where cats weren’t allowed. Charlie had originally gone to Ian from a friend because Charlie was being bullied by the other cats there – twin Siamese; evil incarnate. This makes it even more surprising that Charlie has gone through periods, on and off, when he had bullied Merlin horribly. At the moment, he’s being relentless, to the point of claiming all boxes and even pouncing on her to get her off cushions so he can take her place.
He’s always been a bit of a shit at mealtimes. Once he’s finished he’ll go for anyone else’s, even the dog if they haven’t finished before him. Nowadays, he moves from bowl to bowl pushing the others away if he’s not being watched. Delusions of grandeur much?
The final cat, and final animal is Dora
She likes boxes too
Dora is absolutely adorable, and absolutely evil. I have never heard such sounds coming from a cat before. She literally yells at the other cats, and the dog. Charlie ignores her, Merlin avoids her and Bella is downright terrified of her.
It’s funny to see the different ways the animals react to her aggressiveness. Merlin tries to ignore her as best she can, but she is skittish and avoids her whenever possible. If they have to cross paths, Merlin will stand her ground to a point but when testing the ground results in racking up the racket Merlin backs off and looks for another way.
Charlie, on the other hand, goes straight on through regardless. I’ve seen him literally jump over Dora’s head when she blocked a doorway.
Who would have thought such an adorable little thing could be so mean!
The worst affected is poor Bella. For all that she could probably eat Dora in two bites, Bella is terrified of her and won’t come into the room if Dora is having a hissy fit. She gives Dora a wide berth and whines quietly to herself when Dora is “going off” on one of the other cats.
There are, however, rare times when they get along, and they are real Awwww moments
Although Bella is still keeping a very wary eye on the little ball off fluff who might go off like a firework at any moment.
Recently, in writing group, we decided to do some work with grammar. I love grammar. I might not be particularly good at it, but I love it nevertheless. There is something that feels “safe” about knowing you have a good structure to hang your writing from. No matter what the writing project it’s improved by nice, clean grammar.
I therefore thought I would share our grammar adventures.
This week, the comma. I’m hoping my partner in crime, Terri will share her contribution of poetry devices as well. I would suggest my son might write up his presentation on iron but…teenage boy, what can I say?
I hope you enjoy. If you have any questions (or corrections/additions) please comment and I will respond.
As we plough into the first day of a brand new year, I thought I might take a look at some of the ways that people around the world celebrate. I found some fascinating traditions.
We’ll start with the UK because that’s what I’m most familiar with. I’m not sure how many, if any, of these traditions/superstitions are purely Welsh but we’ll say UK as a cover-all.
First footing – this is the tradition that the first visitor of the New Year should be a dark haired male bringing gifts of bread and coal. When I lived at home with my parents, it was usually our next door neighbour. Sometimes, if the neighbour was celebrating with us, he would go out of the back door and around again to the front.
Never borrow or lend on New Year’s Day, and for God’s sake don’t wash any clothes or someone will die. Enough of that in 2016, I think.
Some of the wilder traditions that are, sadly, no longer practiced are:-
Mari Llwyd (Grey Mare)
Basically, a horse skull on a long pole is covered with a white sheet and decorated with flowers and ribbons. The mari lwyd is then paraded through town, running and snapping at people. In old times the men accompanying the mari lwyd would knock on the door of houses and enter into a singing/insulting battle with the homeowner then be invited in for a drink. By the end of the night both men and mare were three sheets to the wind (very drunk)
There are various callenig traditions which all involve groups of children going from house to house to collect callenigs (new year gifts) which usually took the form of copper coins or sweet treats. In some areas they carry apples on sticks, stuck with holly and spices, in other places cups of water which was splashed with birch sticks. There are also songs and verses which vary All of this is intended to give the household good luck through the year
Okay, enough about Wales. What goes on elsewhere in the world.
New Year is a very important festival in Japan and has a myriad traditions and customs from families gathering to clean the house from top to bottom, to elabourate decorations and religious observances. Some of my favourites are
Joya no Kane
At exactly midnight all the temples ring bells. The bells ring exactly 108 times. This relates to the Buddhist belief that human beings are troubled by 108 earthly desires and feelings. With each bell, one of the troubles falls away leaving you clean in body, mind and spirit to start the new year fresh.
Family and friends gather round for a feast served in a special layered box, jubako. All of the foods eaten have been ascribed meaning over the generations to represent one New Year wish. My favourite example is lotus root which represents lack of obstructions (because you can see through the holes without obstruction)
Children receive small envelopes from parents, grandparents, family etc containing money. In a world filled with too much “stuff” and children who are overly concerned with getting the right “stuff” this is a tradition which is more and more being adopted by the West for Christmas. I, myself have given money in Christmas cards to family members who I have no idea what gifts to buy for. Even in Japan, the giving of money has evolved from rice cakes, through toys and gifts. Are we getting lazier or the children more spoiled?
One of the most important Chinese traditions is the New Year’s Eve dinner. It is very much a family dinner when everyone gets together in preparation for the new year. Everyone stays up until midnight when they set off fireworks to welcome in the new year and drive away any left over negativity from the old year.
The time after the NYE feast when family members stay awake to welcome in the new year or to stay up all night to make sure the demon “Year” doesn’t strike, by lighting fires, setting off fireworks and keeping vigil.
Like in Japan these envelopes bear money gifts for children.
The new year ends on the fifteenth day with the Yuan Xiao festival, also called the lantern festival which, I think, is one of the prettiest festivals ever.
The last day of the year is called Silvester after Pope Silvester who died 31 December 335. Traditions vary through the country. Here are some of my favourites
It’s a tradition all over the country to give small lucky charms to family, friends and guests. These can include, four leaved clover, sweeps, horseshoes and small marzipan pigs.
In a tradition very similar to ours is that you can’t hang washing out on NYE or day. Just like with us, washing on NYD leads to a death in the family. Can’t see the connection, but who am I to argue with tradition?
Melting lead in a small spoon over a candle and pouring it into water to make weird and wonderful shapes. This reminds me of a NYE tradition we have in Wales of making Taffy. Basically you make toffee in a pot, then slowly pour into a bowl of cold water. It makes shapes and patterns, sometimes even letters or numbers, and some people like to use them for fortune telling. Taffy has the advantage though, I think, because you can eat it afterwards.
Like China, India celebrates the new year at a different time than those who follow the Gregorian calendar, and it occurs in late October/early November. It is called Diwali or the Festival of Lights. The lights have more than one purpose/meaning, for example celebrating the triumph of the Hindu god Rama agianst the evil king who stole his kingdom and wife (aka the triumph of good against evil), or the more secular purpose of lighting the way of the goddess of Good Fortune, Lakshmi to your home.
It is a time of new beginnings when businesses settle debts and begin new account books, and people buy new things for their homes, or even clothes.
In southern India mothers put small gifts and food on a tray and children can’t open their eyes until they have been led to the tray.
One of my favourite traditions of all comes from Denmark where they throw dishes at each other’s houses. The bigger the pile of dishes the more friends the person has. Although, I think I might be stressed out and worried how big my pile would be.
They also have the amusing tradition of jumping off a chair at midnight. It would have been nice to jump off a chair and squash 2016.
Traditions revolve around the beach. White clothes are preferred, but with colourful undergarments, each colour representing something eg green for good health, yellow for wealth and read for romance and passion.
Flowers and candles are thrown into the sea, adorn its edges or float on little rafts as a gift for the sea goddess Lemanja.
Food is also a big part of Brazilian celebrations. Lucky foods are lentils, pork and fish. You have to eat eight pieces of raisin before the clock strikes twelve. This is reminiscent of Spain where you eat one grape for every strike.
So, there are some traditions and celebrations from around the world. There are so many more but I’m becoming conscious of how long this post is. There is only one more tradition I would like to honour, and this is saying a very Happy New Year to all my family, friends, readers and casual lurkers.
Blwyddyn Newidd Dda I Bawb