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Kai Update: The Spy in, the wash and the wardrobe May. 21st, 2008 @ 04:05 pm
Again, thanks for all the healing vibes and promises of tuna. They're all working. Kai's continuing to progress well. He's not eating enough on his own yet - so we're supplementing his intake - but he's a lot livelier and he's started purring again.

But just when we thought our Kai washing days were over...

We heard a large thump on the lounge ceiling. Thinking Kai must have knocked something heavy over, we ran upstairs, opened the bedroom door and ... found nothing. Kai was wandering along the floor doing the kitten equivalent of an innocent whistle. Nothing to do with me, guv.

I scanned the room. No furniture overturned. No sign of a disturbance. And then I saw what is best described as a 'code brown' situation at the base of our wardrobe. Our five foot high wardrobe. Little grey cells cranked over. That thump - could it have been Kai jumping down from the top of the wardrobe? Surely not? Three days ago he couldn't walk without dragging his right leg. How could he jump five feet?

I walked over to take a closer look. And found a large sticky pile of what can only be described as conclusive evidence of Kai's presence on top of the wardrobe. And, forgetting his training as an international kitten of mystery, he'd walked it all over the top of the wardrobe too.

As I told Kai on the way to the bathroom, not only does James Bond have to wear a plastic cone around his neck when he gets shot but he also has to have a bath when he soils himself. Those bits just get edited out of the film.

Kai Update: Tuesday May. 20th, 2008 @ 12:44 pm
First the good news: He's stopped bleeding. He's a lot perkier - he no longer lies around all day with his eyes half-lidded looking as though he's about expire any second. And he doesn't need to see the vet until next Wednesday when he'll have his stitches taken out. So the prognosis is good.

Now the not so good news: He's still not eating so the two hourly gloop feed continues. And he's incontinent. Which, when all your wounds are around the tail and inside of the back legs, is not good. Which means he has to be washed. And cat washing is not fun at the best of times - throw in a bad leg, a broken tail and antibiotics that loosen the bowls ... and you take 'not fun' to an undreamt of level.

The vet has switched his antibiotics so hopefully the situation will improve.

*Postscript News Flash*

Kai has at last started eating by himself - tempted by tuna:)

Kai Update May. 17th, 2008 @ 03:27 pm
Thank you for all the healing vibes and virtual hugs.

Kai managed a full body stretch this morning but is still not interested in food. We tried to tempt him with various meats and scrambled eggs but he turned his nose away. So it's back to feeding him by syringe every two hours - that's a syringe sans needle which we use to squirt creamy gloop onto his tongue. A long fraught process which isn't popular with cat or human. His next appointment with the vet is on Tuesday morning.

As to the cause of his injury we're not sure. At first we thought it must be another cat but cat fights tend to be very loud, yowly affairs and we heard nothing that night. And we're people who sleep with the window open and who are trained to leap out of bed at the first yowl of a cat fight. Click here for one of our more memorable cat fight adventures.

The vet thinks it might be a mink or polecat as the attack was so vicious and the teeth so sharp.

As a precaution we decided it would be wiser to keep our other cat - Xena - in at night. But cat's called Xena don't take to being grounded too well and Tuesday night she broke out by unlocking the cat door. Then she didn't come home for breakfast the next day. So you can imagine the state we were in on Wednesday morning. We had a listless Kai still bleeding from his operation the previous day and no Xena.

She waited until the evening and then strolled in as though nothing had happened. We locked the cat door again that night and placed a heavy box in front of it. She broke out - galloping away on horseback and ululating wildly. Cats!

Of course, now we've relented and leave the cat door unlocked, she stays in all night. Cats are contrary beings:)

Now I'm off to watch Pompey win the cup.

Terrible News: Kai badly hurt May. 16th, 2008 @ 04:28 pm
On Tuesday morning we came downstairs to a sight that all cat owners dread - large quantities of blood smeared all over the kitchen floor and our cat - Kai - lying very still in the middle of it all. This time the blood didn't belong to a mouse or a rabbit. It belonged to Kai.

We took him to the vet first thing and watched as the vet shaved and cleaned the mass of matted fur and puncture wounds around the underside of Kai's back legs and tail. He'd been bitten severely and cut in several places and had lost a lot of blood. His tail - which was one of the seven fluffy wonders of the feline world - was broken and paralyzed. And worse it looked like one of the cuts had damaged his urinary tract. He was operated on for almost an hour.

We took him home and explained that even James Bond has to wear a plastic cone around his head when he gets shot. Kai was not amused. He slept all of Tuesday, not eating or drinking. We got him to take some water by forcing a syringe into his mouth. But he was still bleeding and it was fifty fifty whether he was going to make it through the night.

The next day we took him back to the vet where he was put on anti-haemorrhagics and prescribed a liquid food concentrate. He's still on both. We've been feeding him by syringe every two hours since Wednesday. He's stopped bleeding but is still listless and most unKai-like. He can just about walk - when absolutely necessary - but spends most of the time led out asleep.

He may lose his tail but at the moment all we want is for him to recover.

Free Cornish Army Picture Apr. 29th, 2008 @ 12:21 pm
Now I have a scanner that works I can at last post some non-digital photos. Here's an old black and white photo from 1974.

The picture shows the victorious Free Cornish Army taking control of Launceston police station. For those unfamiliar with the Great Cornish Uprising of 1974, the story's here. Launceston was the first town to fall to the FCA. Truro followed an hour later.

I'm the one on the left and, as you can see, my uniform owed as much to Batman as it did to Che Guevara. Ah, the seventies when even the freedom fighters wore capes.

Colds, Lambs, a Donkey and the Green Bearded Horse Stampede Apr. 21st, 2008 @ 04:38 pm
Living in the middle of nowhere has one great advantage - we hardly ever get colds. But the downside is that whenever I go abroad in the winter months... the cold germs set upon me the moment I reach the first big town. This time I thought I'd try Echinacea but the combination of train germs, Parisian metro germs, Dublin germs and aeroplane germs were too strong and I've been coughing and blowing my nose for three weeks.

On the plus side, the lambs are all doing well. We've had to feed one of the triplets who wasn't getting as much milk as her sisters. But she's now caught them up in size and speed. It's amazing to see nine day old lambs leaping off the top of four feet high boulders.

Then there was the donkey... We thought we'd do a good deed and arrange for our blacksmith to trim the feet of a donkey that's being kept on one of our neighbour's fields. The donkey's feet were terrible - so overgrown he couldn't walk right. So, on Saturday we set off to collect him, walk him back the half mile to our stable where he could have his feet trimmed without dragging the blacksmith all over the field.

As usual it started off fine. Shelagh caught him, slipped a headcollar over his head and led him out the field. The rest should have been easy as previously he'd been easy to lead. Then he saw our horses and everyone got excited. Our two horses whinnied and galloped and the donkey bounced and brayed. And turned, suddenly, setting off towards a track on the side of the road. A muddy track. Shelagh tried to pull him back, failed and fell over. And ... refused to let go of the lead rein.

There was some dragging - of the horizontal, stomach surfing kind. Mud was involved and at least one puddle.

Ten minutes later we managed to get the donkey into the stable. Not so good news about Shelagh's coat - which was drenched and slightly ripped. But cue happy ending. The donkey can now walk properly and Shelagh gets to buy a new coat.

Finally - and just to show what an action packed week it was last week - there was the stampede. Another of our neighbours was moving his young cattle from one field to another and, to do so, he had to use the road that adjoins our fields. This is not usually a problem. The road has little traffic and the farmer has his family at the front and back of the herd to keep order.

And what order - never had there been such a well-behaved herd of cows. They formed an orderly line, two abreast, ambling slowly past.

Until Saffron - our almost 17 hands French Trotter - saw them. She's fascinated by cattle and gets excited. And when a giant excitable horse gets excited, they get Excited with a capital E. She stopped what she was doing - eating large amounts of grass - and charged out of the woods.

This had an adverse effect on the young cattle. One, they hadn't seen Saffron before as she'd been hidden amongst the trees. Two, she was galloping towards them at great speed. And, three, she had a large green beard - a clump of grass that she'd torn off ready to chew before the cattle fever struck.

Stampede! The road was turned into Pamplona with fewer people and more cattle. Humans jumped into ditches, called out, squashed themselves against hedges. Cattle ran and bucked and bellowed. Saffron galloped, bucked and farted.

Luckily the stampede didn't last for long as the herd turned into a track away from the road and once out of sight of the terrifying green bearded monster they calmed down. Equally luckily was Saffron's clever green-bearded disguise. Because of it she's unlikely to be picked out of a police line-up:)

Triple Triplets! Apr. 2nd, 2008 @ 01:12 pm
Lambing officially finished at eleven this morning with ... yet another set of triplets. That's three out of four giving a grand total of eleven lambs this year - enough for a football team (or soccer, if you're from the left side of the pond)

Here's one of the latest arrivals - barely two hours old - learning the joys of a good nuzzle.

Here's one of the older triplets demonstrating how useful mother's are - especially when the hay net is just out of reach.

It doesn't take lambs long to realise that the warmest, most comfortable bed is their mother's fleece. In a month's time most of our ewes are going to have lamb hair:)

And finally we have a lamb demonstrating what the best dressed lambs are wearing this year - thigh high brown boots with matching eye and nose markings.

For the interested, the lambs are Suffolk crosses - a Suffolk ram crossed with a 'sheep of the region'.

Twin Triplets! Apr. 1st, 2008 @ 12:11 pm
Lambing continues apace. And what a pace. Last year was the first year we ever had triplets. This year we've had two. And in between the triplets came twins so the maternity stables are somewhat full at the moment and we've had to take both stables from the horses.

Rhiannon is not amused at having to give up her warm stable but Saffron is the bigger problem. She likes sheep, she's curious and she has big ears - which block the LambCam when she pokes her head over the stable door to watch the lambs. And she's taken to nibbling the wooden box that houses the LambCam.

Anyway, here's the first of the pictures. These are the twins resting after a hard day being stared at by a giant horse's head.

Here are the second triplets when they were four hours old. We've got them pencilled in for the Olympic Synchronised Lamb event this summer. Two are naturals, the third needs some work.

Here are the twins trying out their new overflow accommodation - a summer house on the lawn.

And here's one of last week's triplets wondering where his summer house was.

Triplets! Mar. 27th, 2008 @ 10:43 am
The lambing season is officially underway. Nice Ewe, who was due yesterday and had been on the point of exploding since Monday, gave birth to triplets at eleven last night. For the interested, she had two girls and a boy weighing in at three tons each (according to the mother - who should know:)

Here they are at age nine hours and a quarter. Nice Ewe's eye says it all.

Even at nine and a quarter they're fast and inquisitive. Point a camera at them and one's off exploring and headless by the time the shutter opens. Here's one of the few non-headless snaps.

They're pretty much the same at ten and a quarter. Here they are outside on our lawn. We give them a couple of hours outside each day if the weather's good then release them back into the field when they're big enough.

And finally a close up. Note the patented newborn woolly jumper - several sizes too big to allow plenty of room for expansion. And in two months time they'll need it - they'll all be the size of large woolly beach balls.

Now I'm off to pack for my trip to Dublin. There'll be more lamb pictures on Tuesday.

Lambing 2008 Mar. 24th, 2008 @ 04:23 pm
Lambing is officially underway. It's due to start Wednesday but as usual no one told the ewes who all look enormous. Yesterday we caught up Nice Ewe - who's due on Wednesday - and moved her into the deluxe maternity stable ward. Today we set up the LambCam so we can monitor her remotely from the house (and, as the camera has a microphone, listen to her as well. So for the next ten days* I'm going to have the 24 hour Sheep Channel live by my bed - and you would not believe how noisy a sheep grinding her teeth can be:)

Rest assured there will be lamb pictures.

*I do get a respite Friday thru Monday as I'm off to the Phoenix convention in Dublin where I'm a guest.

Hedge Slog Mar. 20th, 2008 @ 12:12 pm
Our Spring hedging offensive has just finished - five days of hard toil and another 50 metres of hedge coppiced and replanted. With the emphasis on replanted. Most of our roadside hedge had been overrun with brambles and fern so we had to dig out the roots and replant with trees from our nursery*. Then we had to untangle the old barbed wire fence, uproot the old rotten fence posts and replace with new chestnut posts and sheep fencing.

I am now knackered.

*We have a tree nursery where we put any tree seedlings we find during the year. Beech from the fields which get trodden on or eaten by our big-footed animals otherwise; hazel, ash and hawthorn which birds insist on planting in our vegetable garden; and chestnut and holly which we grow from seed.

Holly is especially difficult to grow from seed. You have to simulate the passage of the seed through a bird's digestive tract. Not wanting to volunteer my digestive tract, we soaked the berries in water for a fortnight instead, changing the water every other day until the seed coat disintegrated. Then we scarified the seeds between two granite stones, planted them in a seed tray and waited two winters. The result: 200+ holly seedlings this spring. Next year's spring hedge offensive is going to see a large swathe of holly hedge planted.

CSI: Felix - The Night of the Long Claws Mar. 12th, 2008 @ 11:53 am
As cat slaves we know the joys of waking up to body parts strewn all over the house. But this morning...

Three rabbits and a startled toad. And to judge by the size of our cats stomachs - think cartoon cats with bunny sized bulges - that was just the leftovers. For the first time ever neither cat required breakfast.

Both cats are now sleeping and the startled toad - Toadus Inedibilis - is in therapy.

We may join him.
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Spellspam Interview: a Cat's Perspective Mar. 11th, 2008 @ 10:12 am
This week the International Kittens of Mystery invite Laptop and Boboko, without whom (as all cats know) Alma Alexander would not have been able to write the latest Worldweaver's book - Spellspam - which is out today.

Because of the premature end to last week's interview (following the tuna incident) Xena has decided to assist Kai this week.

Kai: How do you most help your human with her writing? Do you warm her keyboard? Help her with the typing? Or do you translate her text into Polish with some clever paw strokes?

Xena: You asked that last week.

Kai: So? It's my best question. (flicks tail pointedly and turns to Laptop)

Laptop: I find that pathetic meows from the middle of the office where I am just too far to reach REALLY help her concentration. it helps her focus in the right place - which is, of course, me.

Boboko: Well, there are times I want lovings. Like, NOW. And there are times I want her to clean the litter box. Like, NOW. And there are times that I want her to... oh, wait... you mean she was doing something else?

Kai: Humans ALWAYS think they're doing something else. (climbs onto back of chair, tries to turn, teeters precariously, overbalances, digs in claws and swings precariously from front paws whilst trying to pass off entire incident as pre-planned) Thea's a double seventh - seventh child of two seventh child parents. Those are pretty big litters for humans. So, I'm guessing Thea's really a kitten, isn't she? It's one of those allegorical stories where the heroine has to be a human for marketing purposes but we all know she's really a kitten.

Boboko: Yes but how long are her whiskers?

Laptop: Pah. Humans just get carried away sometimes. Doesn't mean they can aspire to be cats.

Xena: (watching the tempting target of Kai's fluffy tail swing in front of her nose for one too many times) thwap!

Kai: Ow! Are ... are there any magical kittens in this book?

Laptop: There are no such things as NON-magical kittens. In this book or anywhere else. Yes, there's a cat - I'm told that SHE has committed the atrocity of amalgamating me and my silly brother into one creature for her character's cat, but we can both forgive her that. She probably didn't want to hurt our feelings by choosing one over the other. And I fully realise that she couldn't have a cat called Laptop in a book which has to do with cyber magic - humans are easily confused - hence the name she gave the cat in the book.

Boboko: There's a cat in the book?

Kai: (trying to read the autocue while hanging upside down) Yawny raft ot kooq...

Xena (rolls eyes) How would you suggest a cat sells this book to their human? What would your pitch be?

Laptop: We cats, we have known for a long time there is more to the world that you know than just what you can smell or paw or hear, that there are other creatures out there (some of them ARE food, arguably) and that you need to open your mind to the possibilities. And that once you become aware of yourself and what you are and what your place is in all the worlds that you can walk in, anything is possible, really.

Boboko: You DO know that neither of us can read...? But this book was written by She Who Doles Out Treats and Kibble. We like treats and kibble, Lap and I. So buy the book, and help her keep the kibble coming...

Kai: (falls down, shocked) Kibble can be stopped? What about the Kibble Fairy?

Xena: Thwap! (turns to Laptop) Any plans to talk your human into writing some cat-centric mythology. I'm thinking Bast the Egyptian cat goddess.

Laptop: ALL HAIL TO BAST - and don't think we haven't been trying. With the help of the Cat Headed One, we will prevail. And if she doesn't there's always the option of wandering across her keyboard on our own and doing it ourselves. In Polish.

Boboko: Well how was I supposed to know that the pile of treats you wouldn't eat was an offering to Bast and not just something I could finish off?... Sorry, folks. I messed up the sacrifice. I guess the Cat Headed One will have to wait just a little longer for her story... ooooh... SQUIRRELS...

Kai: Squirrels? Where?

Xena: Come back! We haven't finished...

Well, if it's not tuna it's squirrels.

Here's Laptop and Boboko behaving themselves:

And here's Kai and Xena having an animated discussion about third person narrative:

If you'd like to know more about Laptop and Boboko click here

Storm Stops Play Mar. 10th, 2008 @ 01:06 pm
Due to the storm, the promised interview will be up tomorrow not today.

So far the damage hasn't been too bad. We've lost part of our stable roof ridge and a number of slates, our Kiwi supports are leaning over at a jaunty angle and corrugated iron is covering parts of the garden it shouldn't be.

I'm patching what I can while the eye of the storm passes over. It looks like we've got another couple of inches of rain to come and more severe gales. Fingers crossed for the stable roof.

Four Cats and a Goblin (plus some Tuna) Mar. 4th, 2008 @ 11:23 am
As heralded last week, our international kitten of mystery (the kitten formerly know as Kai) is conducting a series of feline interviews to prove the old adage - 'Behind every successful author there's a cat - and there's another one over there and one's got the manuscript and one's on the keyboard and Noooo!'

Today, Kai welcomes Flop, Pod and Flit who's pet human, Jim Hines, has a book coming out today. The book is called Goblin War and makes an ideal gift for pet humans of all ages.

Kai: (balancing precariously on arm of chair while trying to read autocue) How do you most help your human with his writing? Do you warm his keyboard? Help him with the typing? Or do you translate his text into Polish with some clever paw strokes?

Flop: Some humans need more help than others. Jim requires a three-cat team. Flit over there helps keep him on schedule, making sure he doesn't sleep in too late. Pod provides financial incentive for Jim's work by shredding the occasional curtain. As for me, I keep the other two in line.

Pod: What's that supposed to mean? You think just because I'm missing a leg, you can--

Flop: *thwapthwapthwap*

Pod: Hey, I was just asking.

Flit: Huh? What was the question?

Kai: (falls off chair, almost lands on feet, swishes tail and blames last week's earthquake in Market Rasen) Are there any magical kittens in his book?

Flop: No magical kittens, but there are tunnel-cats, the fiercest beasts in the whole trilogy. Jig the goblin might be able to fight humans and wizards and even a dragon, but he never messes with the tunnel-cats.

Pod: What about that short story where the tunnel-cat gets--

Flop: I don't want to talk about that. I'm pretty sure the dogs wrote that scene when we weren't looking. They'll pay for that one of these days.

Flit: Wait, what's going on? Who are we talking to now?

Kai: (sharpening claws on chair legs) With your human writing all these books about goblins, when's he going to produce a cookery book? There must be some good goblin recipes - maybe with a little tuna...

Flit: Tuna! (bounds away)

Flop: You had to say the T-word, didn't you.

Pod: Most goblin recipes sound pretty good to me, actually. But humans don't seem to appreciate them. Don't ask me why. The barbequed elf with rock serpent gravy is especially tempting.

Kai: (mouth open, head back, glazed look while doing a passing imitation of Snowball imitating Homer Simpson) Rock serpent gravy... (gurgle, wretch - unexpected hairball) How would you suggest a cat sells this book to their monkey? What would your pitch be?

Flit: He lied. There wasn't any tuna. Go sneeze on him, Pod!

Flop: Jig the goblin takes a very feline approach to adventures and quests: he wants nothing to do with them. He'd rather curl up and nap, or at least hide somewhere that the warrior goblins don't pick on him. Instead, he gets dragged off on some silly human adventure, and has to survive with his wits and his fangs. Also with his pet spider who sets things on fire a lot.

Pod: I had a pet spider, but I eated him.

Flop: Anyway, it's an entertaining book, particularly for anyone who's familiar with the tropes of the genre. Jig's a very loveable character, for a biped.

Flit: What's a trope?

Kai: (acting knowledgeable)It's French for mole. Not as nice as mouse but better than spider. Do you think any of the characters in your human's books are based upon you?

Flop: Well, the elves who appear in the first and third books are highly graceful, like myself.

Pod: Didn't you fall off the DVD player again last night?

Flop: *thwap* Some of the goblins are a little dense in the head. I'll leave it to you to decide which of us inspired them.

Flit: Wait, maybe there's tuna now! (Bounds off again)

Kai (bounding in pursuit) Tuna? Wait for me!

And there - a little sooner than planned but we are talking tuna - the interview ended.

Here's Flop, Pod and Flit in the Green Room interviewing the tuna.

And here's Kai resting after a heavy meal.

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