Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Entropy Gang’s June 2017 blog

The Entropy Gang’s June 2017 blog
Herschel: It’s nearly a year since we were granted the freedom of the GARDEN. One day I caught a squirrel but when I tried to take it indoors The MAID wouldn’t let me in. I don’t know why. I haven’t bothered catching anything since, apart from an occasional dragonfly, since my efforts are not really appreciated. The birds have stopped coming into the GARDEN now, anyway. What’s a cat to do?
Jellicoe: I’ve caught more than anyone – two wood pigeons, a rat, a field mouse and a blackbird that managed to escape. Lately I haven’t been concentrating on hunting. I found a way out of the GARDEN but the trouble was that I couldn’t find the way back in again and that made me unhappy. The MASTER has been all round the GARDEN making sure that none of us can escape again. Spoilsport!
Isambard: I don’t spend any time hunting. I’d rather watch the fish or curl up with the dogs. It’s been so hot lately that none of us have done anything but flop about. It’s cooler now, though so all the SERVANTS are happier.
Pats
Herschel: Pats, the little cat belonging to Susannah, died. We were sorry, even though she didn’t mix with us. She had lived with Susannah for a very long time.

Isambard: Susannah was very upset. Now she’s found another kitten, the same colour as Pats. She is nosy and very interested in finding out about everything. Lenny is scared of her but he’s getting used to her.
Lenny
Zula
Frankie with Zula
Frankie is very proud of and pleased with his little kitten

Jellicoe: Her name is Zula and she’s tiny. Bertie loves her. Bertie is a nice boy, gentle and warm. We like the other DOGS, too, but Bertie is our favourite.

Isambard: The MASTER and The MAID put in a special little door for us so that we can go in and out whenever we want to.

Herschel: We’re not allowed out at night, though, but that doesn’t bother us ‘cos we like to sleep with the DOGS and the SERVANTS.
Jellicoe: No, we’re not allowed out but Solomon got stuck outside the other night and cried to come in.
Solomon
Isambard: When Jellicoe escaped none of us were allowed out unless the SERVANTS were in the GARDEN with us. The SERVANTS locked our little door but Solomon didn’t realise and banged his head trying to open the flap.

Herschel: So then he didn’t want to use the special door and that’s why he got stuck outside ‘cos he wouldn’t come in when The MAID called him. Silly boy!

Jellicoe: He’s all right now, though. I was the first to use the special door. I’m always the first to try something new. Isambard was the last. He’s so cautious it’s painful.

Herschel: Little Zula isn’t allowed into the GARDEN yet. The SERVANTS are afraid the Red Kite will grab her so she won’t go out until she’s bigger.


Isambard: I don’t think the DOGS would allow that. The Red Kite is big but the DOGS are much bigger.

Jellicoe: Zula won’t be very big, anyway, not even as big as Lenny and Solomon, although they’re mostly fur, not like us Ocicats. We’re big and strong.

Herschel: Now we must get back to what we like doing best – snoozing, preferably with a dog or, failing that, on The MASTER and The MAID’S bed. We’ll be in touch. TTFN.


Little Things

Little Things

Seeing things through a four-year-old’s eyes is endlessly fascinating and often very amusing. Frankie went to play in the conservatory as usual the other day and came running back in great distress. He had seen a ‘big, black thing’ on the floor. I went to investigate and found the cats surveying a large stag beetle with five and a half legs. I don’t know whether the cats were responsible for the amputation but the beetle seemed unfazed and I picked it up and deposited it in the garden. The next day it was back again. 

I returned it to the wild. A couple of days later a female stag beetle was being studied by the felines and a day after that another male with six legs. Clearly the cats are budding entomologists.
Stag beetles are an endangered species, though they are doing relatively well in the south of the UK. They may be further endangered by our cats, although the cats have not attempted to eat them. I should think they’d be rather crunchy. There have been no further beetle guests in the conservatory.

We spotted a tiny, pretty day-flying moth on the herbs and discovered it was a Mint Moth (Pyrausta aurata)It’s very common but we had never seen one before. 


A few days later I noticed an unusual spider on a tomato leaf. In fact, there were two, but it was the colourful one that caught my eye. 
It was a Candy stripe spider (Enoplognatha ovata), an appropriate name for such a pretty creature. Its companion on the leaf was more soberly dressed in silver, not so flamboyant but nonetheless attractive.
Again, the Candy Stripe spider is quite common but we were pleased to make its acquaintance. If only all spiders were so pretty – and stayed outdoors.

When Frankie saw the enlarged photos of the moth and the spiders it kindled his interest and it wasn’t long before he was reporting sightings of spiders everywhere and asking Barry or me to take photographs. The smallest one he found was a Money spider or Dwarf weaver spider in the conservatory and its presence was duly recorded for posterity. 
He named it ‘Tiddles’ and was pleased to see it near the front door the next day though we suspect it was probably a friend or relative of the conservatory resident.

We told him how Susannah, his mummy, had a pet spider when she was little. 
She called it ‘Sid’ but again we think there were probably several ‘Sids’. Sid was a Garden spider or Cross or Diadem spider (Araneus diadematus), an orb web weaver, and was probably a female. The females weave the webs and remain in the centre or nearby with one leg hooked on the web, waiting for prey. Sometimes Cross spiders eat their mates directly after mating.

Clearly the fascination with arachnids is genetic. I must remember to tell Frankie that Cross spiders will bite if threatened. Apparently the bite is like a mild bee sting.

Frankie was watching a bumble bee recently and asked if he could stroke it. 
Their furry bodies do look quite inviting. 
Anyway, not long ago I think he attempted to stroke what he thought was a bee but it was a wasp which expressed its disapproval of his presumption by stinging him. He howled, poor little boy, but the lesson has been learnt.


Does my bum look big in this?
Is this one better?


Saturday, 29 April 2017

A lovely morning surprise!

  Herschel snoozes
   It was early Saturday morning and we were enjoying a leisurely lie-in, idly watching rugby and occasionally dozing off. Susannah had taken Frankie to his swimming lesson and then carried on to her gym class.
Bertie  and Jellicoe share a bed. He couldn't be a hunter, could he?
Bertie and Roxy were stretched out on our bed, joined from time to time by Herschel and Jellicoe. Isambard was lying on my legs so naturally I couldn’t get up – it’s very bad manners to disturb a cat. Jenna and Gus were snoozing in their beds.

We could hear sounds of cats playing. At least Solomon and Lenny weren’t screaming at each other so all was peaceful and there was no urgency for us to get up and proceed with the day. Susannah returned and there was an exclamation of disbelief and horror as she realised she had trodden on a dead but still pliant wood pigeon.

‘You’ve got to see this,’ she said so we duly arose. The hall was a mass of feathers surrounding a defunct avian. The scene in the garden of the capture and possibly the execution  was clearly demarcated by a sufficient number of feathers to make us believe there might have been more than one casualty. How can one bird have so many feathers? Still, as the old tongue twister has it, 'There are forty thousand feathers on a thrush' so there must be at least that number on a wood pigeon. I can understand why Labradors dislike picking up pigeons – all those feathers coming loose.
Not quite the remains of the day  . . .
After clearing up (We now have a clear idea of the colour of a pigeon blood ruby) we set about using our deductive skills to determine the culprit. We thought about Susannah’s cats. Solomon is little and likes catching dragonflies. 
Solomon
Could it have been Lenny? Possibly. He may have lain on the poor bird. Lenny is ‘plump’ and lazy and limits his hunting exploits to moths.
Lenny
It could not have been Isambard as he was pinning down my legs and in any case is not keen on leaving the company either of us or the dogs. 
Isambard watching the fish
Herschel caught a squirrel not long after he was given the freedom of the garden but is not given to excessive hunting. We concluded it was probably Jellicoe. He watches the birds more than the others and so far this year he has killed a rat, a field mouse, a dunnock and a wood pigeon. He also caught a blackbird but it escaped. So, he’s not the most prolific of killers but he does his best, sadly.
What is this?'
Our garden used to be busy with birds, particularly at this time of year when adults are feeding their young, but word seems to have got around in the bird fraternity that it is a no-go area. While we miss seeing them we are glad they no longer frequent our feeders. It is a small price to pay for the joy of seeing our elegant felines prowling through the shrubs, watching the fish in the pond or sunning themselves.

Fish shall safely swim . . .

. . . and so the year rolls on . . .

. . . and so the year rolls on . . .

The UK is about to celebrate the Early May Bank Holiday on Monday 1st May. This means that families may get together for a barbecue, likely to take place under lowering skies and/or driving rain. Others may choose to take a long weekend break, clogging the motorways in a bid to escape the humdrum of daily life. Those who choose to stay at home often decide to use the extra leisure time to catch up on (or start) some gardening, decorating or d-i-y projects. This results in logjams of cars streaming to garden centres and d-i-y stores and then attempting to find parking spaces. 

Customers impatient to begin their appointed tasks shoulder their way through crowds of other like-minded souls, locate their items and then queue to pay for them. By the time they reach home again, some two or three hours later, the will to achieve anything is dissipating. Of course, there are some organized folks who have already laid in their supplies but these are the people who work steadily at keeping everything in their houses and gardens tickety-boo, surely the most sensible way to proceed in life.

UK citizens enjoy – or endure – just eight Bank Holidays a year and for only two of them, Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, are the large shops shut (though not in Scotland on Easter Sunday) Small shops are free to open as they please on these days. Nonetheless, particularly if visitors are to be hosted, a siege mentality takes hold and huge amounts of provisions are amassed, with every conceivable potential taste being accommodated. It’s no good reminding anyone that the shops will be open again in twenty-four hours’ time.

The next surge in bulk buying, that is, the next Bank Holiday, will be at the end of May. Perhaps Summer will have arrived by then. If not, surely the August Bank Holiday will come up trumps – and speaking of Trump, who knows what he may have set in motion by then.

Anyway, whatever you are planning, even if it’s nothing, enjoy your weekend J





Thursday, 29 December 2016

Post-Christmas

Post-Christmas
It’s a beautiful cold clear day. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, there’s no wind and the dogs have enjoyed a walk and a swim in Crowthorne Forest. Roxy has just finished a small snack of coal – that makes a change from one of Frankie’s toy cars or a piece of Lego.  Now she, like her friends and relations, is damply snoozing.

It is unnaturally quiet here, after a very busy and enjoyable Christmas Day with Bethan and Robert in London. 
Bethan's family and Robert’s family enjoyed the day together.
Some of the sixteen . . .
 Sadly the Dorset contingent of our family was missing. Having had a very difficult twelve months they did not want to be far from home. Hopefully 2017 will be a much happier time for them.
Susannah in pensive mood
Now, though, Barry and I are sitting in splendid isolation, if it is possible to be isolated with so many faithful furry companions. On Boxing Day Susannah travelled to Antigua where she will be distracted from missing and worrying about Frankie, who is in Cornwall, visiting his paternal grandparents.  

Tomorrow we shall pack the dogs into the car and visit Gillian and her family in Dorset. Bertie will enjoy seeing his brother, Buster, and Roxy will be highly delighted to romp with her siblings again.

New Year’s Eve, or Old Year’s Night as my Norfolk brother-in-law calls it, beckons but we shall ignore its lure and remain by our own warm fireside. We shall probably watch the fireworks televised from London – they are usually spectacular. Doubtless there will be many local fireworks, which are a trial for poor Gus.

Frankie will be home again in the afternoon. Then, on New Year’s Day, he and I are driving to Heathrow to meet Susannah. (Barry will be dog-sitting.) I suspect she will spend much of the following day pushing out the zeds.

 . . . and then it will be back to business as usual . . . (sigh)

Happy New Year, one and all, and may 2017 be Healthy, Happy and Prosperous.

Key words

Key words
 Our dogs understand a great deal of English. As well as the more usual, ‘Breakfast, supper, biscuits, coming out?’ they also know ‘trousers’. Barry comes downstairs in his pyjamas in the morning for his first pot of tea. When he says, prior to us going out, ‘I’ll just go and get my trousers on,’ the three younger dogs rise from their resting places (sofa, chair, rug) and race upstairs after, or more often ahead of, him. Now that Barry has two new knees I don’t worry so much about the dogs barging him.
When we say, ‘We’d better put their collars on’, they get very excited and when it’s followed by, ‘I’ll just get the car on the drive’ their joyous anticipation accelerates. After that it’s, ‘boots on’ that convinces them that we are really all going out (not the cats, obviously!)
 ‘Who did that?’ causes consternation and a downturn of the tail and ‘Behave’ elicits grins from Gus and Bertie. Jenna and Roxy do not grin. ‘Bed now’, means it’s time to retire for the night and then all the animals trot up to our bed. Gus, Bertie and Roxy leap onto it, followed by Herschel, Isambard and Jellicoe. (Jenna is an older lady now and prefers the peace and solitude of her own bed.) Solomon is often already there and has to be persuaded to vacate his place and allow them access. Very often I go upstairs first so that I can claim my bed space.
Gus is really too big to be a lap dog . . .
. . . but when you're tired after a good walk and swim . . .
. . . the Master's lap is the only place to be, though it's jolly difficult to get comfortable.

They also recognise their canine friends’ names in conversation.

However, the prize must go to Barry’s cousin Sylvia’s late Jack Russell. Jack was an enormous help, collecting items for her and picking up things she had dropped. He was a very alert little dog, always prepared to help, particularly if it meant he would receive a treat, but even Sylvia was astonished on one occasion. She is an expert knitter but one day she said, ‘Oh, I’ve dropped a stitch,’ and Jack busily hunted for it. I suspect he had a treat even though he couldn’t find the dropped stitch.

After a lifetime of living with dogs (and cats) we are still learning about and from them. They are fantastic companions and ask so little of us. Increasingly we realise their understanding is so much greater than we ever thought. I’m sure they will soon master spelling as we frequently spell out words in order to avoid over-excitement.




Saturday, 17 December 2016

Cats!

Cats!


We have had a number of cats throughout the years, even, for a brief period, breeding them. Our Burmese were recommended  by our vets, to people seeking kittens, for their friendly dispositions and apparent immunity to alarm. We had four children and they and their friends were instrumental in ensuring that our kittens grew up used to the hustle and bustle of a busy home and loving the attention they were given.

Recently I read Eleanor Farjeon’s poem ‘Cats Sleep Anywhere’ to Frankie. It’s a poem many of us will have learnt at school (and then forgotten apart from the first couple of lines!)

Cats Sleep Anywhere

Cats sleep anywhere, any table, any chair.
Top of piano, window-ledge, in the middle, on the edge.
Open drawer, empty shoe, anybody’s lap will do.
Fitted in a cardboard box, in the cupboard with your frocks.
Anywhere! They don’t care! Cats sleep anywhere.

Eleanor Farjeon 1881-1965
Image result for eleanor farjeon Cats
This was the cover of my copy of the poem.

Here is a small selection from the thousands of photos we have of our many cats. Many of them are pictured with our dogs. All our cats have loved our dogs. Some of them enjoyed blogging. Some were quite literary. Some enjoyed watching educational programmes on the television . . . or rugby.

Jellicoe,  our 4-year-old  Classic Ocicat . Classics are now known as Aztecs!
Susannah's  one-year-old Somali, Solomon
Marnie with the late Pansy, one of our blue Burmese, about fourteen years ago.
Jellicoe pretending to be a lap cushion!
The late Monty Ocicat with a young Jenna. Monty died when he was three of congestive heart failure
Susannah's Abyssinian, Pats, as a kitten. She is now ten years old.
Jenna with Winston Ocicat, who died unexpectedly when he was six years old.
Susannah providing a perch for Winston
Monty with the late, great Frodo, my velcro dog
Monty loved watching television . . .
. . . and he would not move to allow a dog into a dog bed.  Here it's Jenna trying to get comfortable.
Young Frodo with elderly blue Burmese, Pansy (top) and Singleton.  
If the cats have a squabble, as cats frequently will, they sometimes seek solace. Here it is  Cariadd, our first Dalmatian, doing the honours. There are six Burmese cats sitting on her. To her right are the hindquarters of Biddy, our first Jack Russell.
Christmas Winston!
Winston appreciating my Kindle
Clown, Magic and Angus, all Burmese. Clown and Angus were brothers.
Alicat, our first Burmese, with Bethan, thirty-three years ago
The cats liked sitting and sleeping on the aquarium cover. It was warm and there was always a slight chance that they might catch a snack! Here are, from left to right, Magic, Angus, Pansy, Alicat(behind Pansy), Sweet Pea, Clown and Singleton
Monty studying a spotted cousin . . .
 . . . and here listening to Jim Al-Khalili
Monty and Winston
Winston the blogger
Jellicoe and Isambard sharing Bertie's bed
Herschel and Bertie