Dear Diary

Over two years since I last blogged anything. So long in fact that WordPress is completely different. There’s some kind of weird block editor that I don’t understand. Why can’t I just write text in a huge box like I used to? 

Aha, installed a plugin to turn that off, and back to normal simple text input in a dialog box.  I guess they think people will only blog tiny missives these days, but I’m here for the epic long hall and the block editor does not suit!

This will be a rambling blog post with compressed and confused timelines, missing information, out of sync actions, and no conclusion.  You’re welcome.

There are always grades of discomfort, I think I might have blogged that before, and my life is easy compared to very many people in the world.  I don’t think I really understood privilege when I was blogging a lot a few years ago, but over the last couple of years or so I’ve come to understand it a lot better.   So I’m privileged, but as should be obvious, it doesn’t mean that shit doesn’t cause anxiety.  And so September, October and now November are the months that just keep on giving.  I’m blogging because I want to rant partly about work, and that means I can’t use Facebook (too many work colleagues), and I can’t use Twitter (240 characters).  So I need somewhere I can vent sure in the knowledge no one will ever read it, and so my personal blog seems like the perfect choice.  This is not going to be one of those posts where I focus on 3 good things and how lucky I am.  That’s never the person I’ve been.  I can’t fight against it really, I’ve always looked at the problems and thought about the issues, and that includes my own life.  It’s what made me excellent at my job in technical support, but it comes with a burden that it’s hard to see the good things amongst the broken.

I am, as anyone who’s read this blog will know, terrible at owning a house.  The last few months have tested that to the limit and continue to do so.  We noticed some woodlice in the corner of the dining room, we knew what it was, rotten wood, we just weren’t sure why.  But dealing with that takes energy, and the last three months have been low energy periods for us for several reasons.  So we didn’t deal with it straight away, and then it started preying on our minds, making it harder to sleep, consuming more spoons, adding more to the cup, whatever metaphor you prefer.  Eventually, Greté found enough energy to contact a handyman on Facebook, and it’s being handled.  Never as bad as you fear, but never as easy as you hope.  It’s half fixed, but now we’re waiting for some dry weather for the guy to finish the job (for which he’s already been paid).

There’s also a leak in our mains water supply.  A good few weeks back now we noticed that the cold water pipes were making a noise as if someone was running a tap.  Initially, I didn’t think much of it, but then I began to think about what it might imply before finally realising it probably meant a leak.  At first, I assumed it was in the house, and so I spent 3 hours one night, until 2am, because when else do you panic about this stuff than at 11pm before you go to bed, trying to find it.  There wasn’t anywhere in the house that obviously had any water leak.   I formed the view the leak was outside.  What followed was is rather frustrating.  We had a British Gas appointment to check the boiler anyway, and they provide plumbing repairs and quotes, so we asked them to also ‘check the plumbing’.  The guy who arrived thought he was only here to find a plumbing issue, Greté managed to get him to do the boiler service, and he agreed he thought the leak sounded like it was outside in the mains pipe.  He had another guy come the next day, from Dynorod (who I think British Gas own) to confirm that, and he did.  There was some confusion that included being told if we signed up to the extended home care agreement it would cover the problem.  So we signed up.  We them had an appointment scheduled for many weeks later for Dynorod to come and ‘find the leak’.  However, before that occurred, Dynorod called us to say it wouldn’t be covered because the cover only covered internal pipes.  Many furious conversations later didn’t provide any progress.  I then called our insurance company, but their ’emergency cover’ line told me because I’d already had a plumber look at it, they wouldn’t cover it, even though they literally just listened to a pipe.  Our regular buildings insurance doesn’t cover it (most likely) because it’s wear and tear.  But they advised us to ring Severn Trent first anyway, which we did.  About three weeks had passed now, with the sound of water leaking in to the ground present in the house all the time.  We also asked Dynorod to come and quote in case we needed them to do the repair.  A lovely lady at Dynorod rang us the day they were supposed to be here, to tell us they were running late and to berate us for getting them back when they said it wouldn’t be free.  I explained we were getting them back to quote, and that if they didn’t arrive soon we’d have to go out.  She told me she could quote and we never needed them to visit anyway, at which point I was pretty pissed off.  So, anything from £700 to £2000 depending on where the leak is, but that’s open ended if access proves hard.  Meanwhile, Severn Trent have now been twice, once to confirm it’s a leak (sounds like it), and once to put a boundary box outside the property, and a meter to measure the rate of loss.  Now however, upon ringing them today, they’re not sure what’s happened, who we may or may not be passed to, and what the status is.  So several weeks after first hearing the noise, we can still hear it, and there’s water leaking in to the ground somewhere between us and the mains.  It’s like water torture for real.

In Tesco car park, sometime in the last two months or so, it’s a blur, I was slowly reversing out of a parking bay when someone drove in to the back corner of the car.  Their passenger side front corner impacted my passenger side rear corner.  The insurance company didn’t even bother debating it, I was reversing so my fault.  I would maintain I checked, it was clear, I reversed slowly, and someone travelling too quickly drove in to the car.  However, I’m now £300 worse off (excess) and we’ll see what it does to the premium.  First insurance accident claim we’ve ever made, since Greté started driving in 1997ish.  Not a big deal, but I’ve never had to deal with car insurance companies, and my natural ‘must follow the rules to the letter’ behaviour gets in the way when those rules are fucking unclear and contradictory.  Just another spoon theft I don’t need.

Fizz has been unwell for a few months now.  She had full on heart failure a while back and we got to her to the vets and essentially saved her life.  Since then, we’ve been extra vigilant, as you might imagine, and are managing her thyroid issue, and several other conditions.  Over the past month though she’s had another serious health scare, and a couple of periods of extreme lethargy, including yesterday.  We felt we might lose her overnight, but this morning she seemed brighter.  We took her to the vets at 6pm today though, to be safe, and they’ve kept her in overnight for more tests.  She may be anaemic which has many possible causes.  She’s 16, and we’ll need to think carefully about how we manage her quality of life in the face of any new challenges.

Work is bitter-sweet.  There’s some good news coming for me personally, a new challenge, new opportunity, but it’s amid a complex, ego-driven, murky, cost-saving-focussed organisational battle.  People are burning out, and being burned out.  I look around and wonder if this is what failing organisations look like, but we refuse to believe it.  Or maybe I’m just more exposed to it now that I have an increased level of involvement in senior management.  Who knows.  I still manage to leave it behind when I get home, for the most part, which is a bonus over the job I had before, and some days it’s so terrible it’s truly funny and easy to rise above.  But I hate when people suffer, and I see a lot of suffering, and some days it saps energy I need to use to be taking care of Greté and the shit above.  When work consumes too many spoons, the balance is broken.

Greté continues to suffer at the hands of the DSS, in parallel to suffering at the hands of her health issues, one of which is literally suffering of her hands.  Around this time last year we got the regular invite to fill in the WCA form, which we duly did, and we waited.  We got an appointment in January for the face to face assessment,  and then last minute it was cancelled.  Apparently, they didn’t have ‘anyone with the specialist skill required to assess her’.  Okay, at least they were honest.  We waited for a new appointment.  And waited.  And waited.  And finally in September, we received this,

Your appointment at 2.45pm on Thursday 17th JANUARY has been rescheduled for Monday 16th of SEPTEMBER

Literally nine months.  Greté called them on the Friday before to ensure the recording equipment was available as instructed, to be told that it was being rescheduled because they’d got the booking wrong and hadn’t lined up a doctor.  For. Fucks. Sake.  They moved it to October 8th, making it nearer to ten months since the original invite and pretty much 11 months since we’d filled in the original WCA.  In that eleven months, Greté’s health has gotten worse, and medication has changed, and and and …

Anyway, we attended, the assessment went ahead, the audio recording equipment (actual C90 tapes) failed just over half way through but we got through it.  Ultimately, on October 24th Greté received the notice that she’d been placed (kept) in the ESA Support Group.  That’s the group that means you do not need to seek employment to continue receiving the ‘benefit’.  No indication of when that will be reviewed next, when we have to start that whole dehumanising process all over again, but it’s done for now.

Tragically, we won’t soon forget the date Greté got that news (which is bitter-sweet in and of itself).  It was also the day we found out that our dear friend, Lynda, had passed away overnight.

We’ve known Lynda for a long time, and I’ll keep personal details out of this entirely to maintain her dignity.  She lived with and in-spite of multiple serious medical conditions, she gave no quarter, she smiled and never stopped.  She didn’t fight her illness, nor lose to it, she rose above it in life knowing the inevitable conclusion.  We will miss her forever.

None of these issues individually are unmanageable.  Some are tragic and heart breaking, some are annoying, some are frustrating.  But at the same time, grouped together, with some of them being a constant nagging worry / fear, sapping energy and spoons, they’re impacting both mine and Greté’s mental health in ways neither of us need.

We’ll be okay, we’ll get through.  I have a good credit rating, there’s equity in the property, the vets are looking after Fizz, and we’ll be able to handle anything which transpires, but fuck me it feels hard sometimes.

Some Cats

If you own cats, you know that they demand photo’s be taken of them in stupid positions.

bubblesheadscratch First of all, this is Bubbles receiving a head scratch, well, until we started holding her ears down obviously, to make her look dumb.  She doesn’t mind!  She just loves having her head scratched so she’ll let you get away with pretty much anything as long as you don’t stop.
fizzbag Fiz just can’t help but climb into bags.  Anywhere, any time, any bag.  She loves them.  She’ll sit in them for hours if she can, just watching the world of non-bag go by.
catfriends Here our two cats spend some quality time ‘together’.  They kind of tolerate each other, proximity to food calms them down (the only time they’ll sit next to each other is while they eat), but once out in the garden, there has to be a regulation 10 feet between them otherwise it’s war.
greteshoulder This is Fiz’s second favourite place to sleep, on Grete’s shoulder like some demented parrot.  She walks all over Grete’s desk, face, shoulders, head and lap until Grete finally relents and lets he lie like this.  It only ends when Grete’s arm is so numb she can’t hold it there any longer.


And here was have Fiz’s first favourite place to sleep.  On the back of the sofa in the lounge, which usually has some kind of blanket draped over it, while we sit on the sofa and watch TV.  She stretches out her full length and slowly slips behind the cushions, pushing us further and further off the sofa.  Sometimes it takes her minutes to actually crawl back out of there when we get up to leave.
shelf Despite the fact that the whole house is cat friendly and there’s a lot of soft furnishings, the cats just love to kip in awkward places.  Bubbles is sleeping on the third shelf of the unit in the dining room, mere inches from the top of their soft, plush cat furniture, and on top of a bunch of pointy plastic miniatures (HeroQuest)!  They both take turns kipping here, especially when it’s raining outside for some reason.


Bubbles just loves the sun!  This is her in the middle of the year taking in some rays, on her back, looking fat as usual.  She lies like this, with her fluffy tummy on show until you’re dragged in and forced to tickle her, at which point she closes all four paws on you like some demented furry Venus fly-trap and savages your arm.
catpike And lastly Bubbles, in the cat-pike position.  Back legs out straight, front legs grabbing them, head tucked in.  Only the Russian judge gives her less than a 10.0.

The Garden Update

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted about the garden, but we’ve certainly not been slacking.  Neither of us can quite believe we’re enjoying doing the gardening so much.  Despite the fact that I have a suspected hernia, I’ve been trying to help Grete as much as I can but she’s having to do most of the heavy lifting now.  In fact, the pain really flared up a couple of days after I carried the top soil around from the car to the back garden last week.  Anyway.

Grete’s done an amazing job sorting out the left side border, we both put in a lot of effort getting the soil under where the deck had been turned over, cleaned out of bricks and rubble to some extent and mixed in a bunch of new top soil.  We’ve seeded that with grass, hopefully to get it looking like the other side and stop the soil washing away in the first heavy rain we get this year.  We’re still not sure what to do with the exposed brickwork and fence panels, but we’ve got some wooden edging we hope to use to hide some of it when I get the chance, and as for the rotten wood holding up the fence panel, that will have to wait until we’re both a bit more confident.

We stopped in B&Q today and picked up 6 shrubs for the right side, and a Japanese Acer for the area we’re grassing to replace the honeysuckle, so hopefully they’ll all put down some roots and do well.  The weather is certainly on our side.

Updated some photo’s at the picasa page (here if you’re really keen), and here’s a couple of my favourites of the cats from the last couple of weeks.

Not a cat! A plant!Bubbles enjoying sun and shade at the same timeShe'd been rolling in the dirt and needed a cleanThe great black hunterShe loves the stick

Sun worshipping cats

Sun worshipBubbles (our older cat) loves the sun.  She’s got really thick fur but doesn’t let that stop her baking herself as often as she can.  The deck is a real sun trap and as soon as the sun starts hitting it she’s out there, absorbing the rays.  Sometimes she looks aware, sometimes she sits around and sometimes, she just flakes out.  Fizz is the black cat in this picture, I think she’s making sure Bubbles (the ginger one) is ok.  Click the picture for the full size version.

We’ve had loads of sun this weekend, and the cats always keep us company when we’re in the garden doing anything – so Bubbles has been really happy – but this shot just sums her up during the summer.

Itchy ears and 6-inch scratches

Fizz, the younger of our two cats, gets itchy ears.  The vet gave us a bottle of gunk to squirt into them once a week which clears out any debris and alleviates the issue.  We tried last night to inject said gunk into her ears – as you can imagine she’s not really very appreciative at the time.  I don’t think it hurts and I’m pretty sure it’s not even that uncomfortable, but if you have to hold a cat down they just assume whatever you’re doing is bad for them.  Which I guess is a pretty good assumption.  We were on the sofa, fizz between us and Grete was holding her down.  I got some gunk in one ear but the little blighter is bloody strong and she squirmed out from Grete’s grip.

In order to get some purchase and get herself off the sofa she used her back feet, claws out, and my body as a launch pad.  So now I sport a pair of nice 6-inch scratches down my left side.

We managed to wrestle her back onto the sofa and do the other ear, and she then spent two hours sulking while we watched Quantum of Solace, before finally deciding we were done and allowing us to pet her again.  Of course, she shredded Grete’s arm after the second squirt of gunk, because she doesn’t like to show any favouritism.

It’s interesting to me how different cats deal with this stuff in different ways – I guess some people just see animals as animals and when you discuss personality they shake their heads and roll their eys.  But if you’ve owned pets or been in contact with animals for a while it’s completely obvious they have a personality of their own.  Bubbles puts up a fight, but once she’s grabbed she sort of just accepts whatever you’re doing in the hope it finishes as quickly as possible, however it takes her about a day to forgive you.  Fizz never gives up – she’s always fighting – and she’s built like a small dog, all muscle and anger, but she’s pretty much over the whole thing in an hour or so.

Oh and don’t tell Grete I’m blogging about the cats, I try and maintain and air of disinterest.  Thanks 😉


Cats got me up at 6:00am today, fighting under the bed, so I’ve spent most of the day yawning and squinting.

And now I’m sharing.

It’s early and cold

Been awake since 06:30 when the cats declared war under the bed and spent the next hour fighting it out to see who could be the most annoying.  Finally unable to cope at 07:30 when I got up and let them out.

Boy it’s cold this morning. Yeh I know, curious during winter.

Gradwell’s shared hosting seemed a little quicker yesterday, maybe someone fixed something, although they still haven’t updated my support ticket (technically they weren’t in the office after 1pm yesterday but it seemed to get a lot quicker after 4pm, I just wish they’d update the bloody ticket so I knew what was going on).

Paw prints in the snow

Why are they so evocative?  Click the pictures for full size images.  It snowed in Nottingham today, for about 15 minutes, really heavy wet snow which lay and then started to vanish almost as quickly as it had arrived.

Both cats are old hands with the whole snow thing so no sudden flurry of excitement from them, although Fizz did try and eat a few snowflakes as they fell on her.

Poor Bubbles

She’s off to the vets again, we suspect cystitis.  Grete rang up to see what they could suggest and they had room to fit her in now, so we mugged her and Grete’s driven her straight over to the vets.


Grete and our guests are out, in Birmingham at a craft exhibition, at which they’re meeting up with Grete’s mum and aunt.

Meanwhile I’m home alone with two snoozing cats, emitting strong snooze pheromones.