A couple of cat stories

Having recently read an amusing story written by a fellow blogger about what happens when a cat gets into the laundry basket I thought I would recount a couple of amusing incidents which have happened with my own cats, although they weren’t very funny at the time.
The first incident happened several years ago at a time when I had quite a lot of cats – sixteen to be precise. Some were my own but others had been taken in and were waiting to be rehomed; six of these were all white, and being from the same family were more or less identical. Now at one time any ‘boarders’ lived in the cattery at the bottom of the garden but it was cold in there in winter so being the soft-hearted person I am they all ended up in the utility room off the kitchen, which is where this particular lot were at the time of the incident. Also in the utility room was the central heating boiler which was enclosed in an outer casing with a vent in the top, and sometimes in winter a couple of the cats would squeeze through the vent and sleep on top of the boiler where it was warm.
Came the day when the boiler was due for its annual inspection and service, the gas service engineer duly arrived and I left him to get on with it – that was until he came to find me, and the conversation went like this –
Him – “Ermm….there’s a dead cat on top of your boiler”
Me – “No, it’s okay, it’ll be asleep – they often go up there”
Him – “No, it’s not asleep, it’s dead”
Me – “Are you sure?”
Him – “Yes, it’s definitely dead”
Me – “Okay, I’ll come and have a look”
So I went into the utility room to find that the engineer had taken the outer cover off the boiler and there on top, obviously dead, was one of the white cats. I had to get the step ladder and climb up to reach it, and what I saw wasn’t a pretty sight – it was practically welded to the metal boiler top and when I picked it up a great deal of its fur was left behind; disposing of it wasn’t exactly the nicest job in the world either. I didn’t know how long it had been up there – hopefully not long – and as far as I knew it hadn’t been ill so I assumed it had been overcome by the heat and suffocated. And with six almost identical white ones I hadn’t even missed it!
It’s a good thing the service engineer came when he did or the cat could have been up there long enough to start smelling, but I felt awful that he was the one who discovered it. After he’d gone I cut a piece of plywood to size, drilled some ventilation holes in it and stuck it firmly to the top of the boiler cover with builder’s adhesive. My cat family has gradually dwindled in the years since then and I only have three now, one of which is Mouse who lives upstairs; the other two do sometimes sit up on top of the boiler but at least they can’t get inside. And I’d love to know what that engineer told his mates when he got back to his depot!
The second incident occurred while I was camping on Anglesey just a few years ago and involved the last remaining one of the previously mentioned white cats. It was the third day of a week-long holiday and I was driving down a country lane on my way to Abersoch on the Llyn Peninsula when my phone bleeped with a text message, so I found a convenient lay-by and pulled up to read it. It was from Michael, my son – “Sorry if I spoil your holiday mum, the white cat’s dead” Well that was certainly short and to the point.
Now the cat in question was by then getting on in years and not in the best of health so the news, although sad, didn’t come as too much of a surprise, and considering I was at least 140 miles away from home there was nothing I could do about it anyway. As I sat there contemplating the cat’s demise and wishing it had waited until I got home before breathing its last my phone bleeped with another message – “What do you want me to do with it?” So I rang Michael – and got the whole graphic account.
Now to put you in the picture, for some strange reason my cats would never drink water from a normal water dish so I’ve always left a washing up bowl full of fresh water in the kitchen sink. Michael had gone in to feed the cats as usual then seeing a white dishcloth in the sink he’d decided to give the worktops a wipe over – except the object in the sink wasn’t a dishcloth. Partially submerged in the washing up bowl and staring up at him with sightless blue eyes, head at an angle and a hideous grimace on its face was one very dead white cat. Now Michael is an adult and by no means a wimp but he said he must have jumped back at least four feet and the scream could probably have been heard from the far end of the street. In trepidation, and with a pounding heart and a face almost as white as the cat, he’d taken another look and the sight was no less pretty the second time around – the cat was most definitely dead and didn’t look too happy about being so either.
The first text message reached me a couple of minutes later and the second one came through after he’d had a nerve calming cigarette. When I spoke to him he still sounded a bit shaken but he agreed there was no need for me to cut my holiday short and that he would bury the cat in the back garden. So out he went and dug the hole then hauled the bedraggled body out of the washing up bowl, wrapped it in an old dog towel and dropped it into the hole, filling it in quickly in case the creature decided to somehow suddenly spring back to life and escape.
There was no way of knowing how or why the cat had got into the washing up bowl; had it fallen in and somehow drowned or had it suffered a heart attack and fallen in on the point of death? – I rather hoped it was the latter as the former scenario doesn’t bear thinking about. The whole incident has come up in conversation several times over the last few years and though Michael didn’t find it funny at the time – and it certainly wasn’t funny from the cat’s point of view – the story always produces much hilarity in the way he tells it. For quite a while after that though, whenever I was away camping he would go to feed the cats with great caution in case he got any more nasty surprises.
 

The calm after the storm

Storm Doris didn’t really hit my local area until yesterday morning was well under way. When I went to work at 7am it was fine, dry and there was no wind; I don’t know exactly when the rain started but when I came out of work at 8.30am it was lashing down and I got drenched just running across the car park to the van. I’m currently looking after Aphra, my friend Janet’s dog, and she was due for her morning walk but there was no way I was taking her out in that – and I don’t think she wanted to go out anyway – so she just got a quick five minutes in the garden. Driving back home past the fields and lower moorland there were several large areas of standing water across the road, testament to how hard it had rained in such a short space of time.
The wind hit from nowhere, blowing up round about 10am, and it was constant until the early evening. Back at my friend’s I discovered that one of her artificial flowering plants, which had been in a concrete-weighted tub outside the front door, had blown away, and although I looked in neighbouring gardens and searched the immediate area it was absolutely nowhere to be seen – it had disappeared completely. Other than a few empty wheelie bins being blown over the village seemed to have escaped fairly lightly, but in other areas of the town trees have been blown down across roads, a couple of house and garden walls have collapsed and my friend Lin who lives round the corner from me has had her back fence blown down.
This morning it’s a completely different story; it’s fine, dry, sunny and calm, and when I went up to Janet’s to take Aphra for her walk I took the camera with me. Only a couple of hundred yards from the house I passed a garden with a bank of snowdrops nestling in the shelter of a large conifer tree; there were even a few purple crocuses coming into flower in one corner. There was a bit of a chilly breeze coming off the moors and rippling the surface of the Blue Lagoon reservoir but it was quite pleasant in the early morning sunshine and Aphra got a good walk to make up for not going out yesterday.
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The Blue Lagoon with Winter Hill in the background
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Looking west
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As I drove back down the hill towards home later on I could see several grey clouds gathering beyond the south of the town. I don’t watch tv weather forecasts so hopefully storm Doris has passed, and although those grey clouds may well bring more rain later on I’m enjoying the current sunshine while it lasts.

A discovery walk on the Llyn Peninsula

Linking up with Jo’s Monday Walk this week, this is one I did while camping on Anglesey the year before last, and not only was it a very enjoyable walk but it also gave me a very delightful and unexpected surprise when I discovered something I’d previously been completely unaware of.
As always, when I’m on my travels I never go anywhere without my AA map book, and having consulted it before leaving the tent that morning I decided to go off the island and explore part of the the Llyn Peninsula. Marked on the map book was a place called Morfa Nefyn and a beach which I’d never previously been to, so I decided to check that out for any possible photo opportunities. Nefyn itself was quite a large spread out village with the main road running through it and I fully expected to see a sign for Morfa Nefyn somewhere but there was nothing, though I did eventually see a sign for ‘beach’ pointing down a long straight lane so that’s the way I went – and ended up in a golf course car park.
With no other signs around I was totally at a loss but as I stood wondering which way to go a couple who had obviously just finished a round of golf came to their nearby car, so I asked them where the beach was and was told to follow the gravel track across the golf course and a fifteen minute walk would take me to it. So off I went, and with the blue sky, sunshine and great views over the coastline to my left it was a very pleasant walk. Eventually the track split into two and down the short steeply sloping tarmac part to my right I could see a beach – I’d found what I thought I was looking for, but it was far more than just a beach.
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A view from the golf course
The track took me down behind a row of cottages on my left and at the bottom of the slope, almost on the beach itself, was a small parking area with just about enough space for half a dozen cars. When I emerged onto the sand I discovered a tiny and very pretty little hamlet with the cottages, three or four houses set in a small courtyard, and a pub/restaurant with an outside dining area, all set at the base of the cliff and within just a few feet of the beach – it was such a quaint, unexpected and out-of-the-way place offering plenty of photo opportunities and I was really glad I’d found it.
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Porth Dinllaen
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Cottages and Ty Coch Inn
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After spending quite some time wandering about taking photos I found a footpath leading round the headland at the end of the beach; there was a house in the distance at the water’s edge so I decided to go round as far as there. The footpath was quite narrow in places with bits of the edge missing where it had crumbled into the sea but I reached the house without mishap and after taking a few shots I retraced my steps back to the beach.
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Instead of going back up the track to the golf course I walked along the sand; four tractors with trailers were parked just above the high water line and once I’d got past those I had the beach almost to myself. Eventually my way was barred by a small headland jutting out into the sea and a path took me off the beach and through a tiny enclave of half a dozen cottages before leading me back onto the sand further along the bay. I was just hoping that there would be a way from there back to the golf club car park otherwise I would have a long walk back the other way but I needn’t have worried; the beach gradually became more populated and eventually I came to a concrete slope leading up to a tarmac lane, and after passing several houses I came out at the start of the long lane leading up to the golf club.
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Looking back at Porth Dinllaen – what you see is what you get
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Another house at the water’s edge
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Morfa Nefyn beach
Just up the lane was a cafe with a few tables outside; it was a good opportunity to stop for coffee and cake before returning to the van and it also gave me a chance to find out the name of the quaint little seaside hamlet I’d discovered. The beach I’d just come from was Morfa Nevyn, the one I was originally looking for, though somehow I’d missed the sign for it, and the hamlet was Porth Dinllaen. It seemed it was quite a popular little place, though I didn’t recall seeing it in the map book so a quick check when I got back to the van confirmed that it isn’t shown on the map.
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My walk, clockwise from yellow spot
Thinking back later on I was glad I’d missed the sign for Morfa Nevyn beach; Porth Dinllaen couldn’t be seen completely from there so if I’d found that beach first I may just have taken a couple of shots of it without going any further, and I would have missed a nice walk and some good photo opportunities in one of the most unusual places I’ve ever been to.

Something cute for the weekend

Searching the internet for something earlier on I came across this photo on a Pinterest page and thought it was so cute I just had to share it. Unfortunately there was no indication as to who the photo belongs to so I can’t credit the owner on here, but if I do find out who it is I’ll happily add his/her name underneath.
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So from one Jack Russell owner to another, whoever you are, thank you for making me smile.

After eight years of faithful service….

My bedroom tv recently died. It was towards the end of last week that I noticed when I turned it on there was a pale red haze on the picture, although it had cleared in less than a minute. Everything was fine when I watched it on Sunday night but on Monday morning when I turned it on it had sound but no picture. Well that was okay, I didn’t need to actually watch the quiz programme, I could listen to the questions and answers, however a couple of hours later the sound disappeared too – my faithful little tv had finally died.
I bought the set back in March 2009 – with built-in Freeview and dvd player it was great for in the bedroom but being only a small size -15.6ins – and very light it was ideal for taking camping too. It was a Technika, Tesco’s own brand, and I ordered it online from Tesco Direct, to be collected two days later from my local store. On the day of collection I got an email to say I could collect it any time after 4pm so I went over to the store after I finished work at 6.45pm – and that’s when things didn’t exactly run smoothly. The assistant on the collection desk told me it closed at 7pm, and although it was only 7.05 I was told I would have to go back the following day – and the conversation went like this :
Assistant – “Sorry, the desk is closed and the store room is locked, you’ll have to come back tomorrow”
Me – “There was no mention of a closing time on the email, it just said ‘after 4pm’. I’ve just come five and a half miles from the other side of town to get this”
Assistant – “That’s nothing to do with me, all I can say is come back tomorrow”
Me – “And all I can say is I can’t come back tomorrow so I’d like my tv now please”
Assistant – “Sorry, there’s nothing I can do”
Me – “Well I’m sorry too, but I’m not leaving here without my tv”
This same conversation went on for a couple of minutes and I was beginning to get mildly irritated at the assistant’s obvious refusal to help so –
Me – “Okay then, get me a supervisor”
So a supervisor was duly summoned and was slightly more helpful in that she went to see if there was a tv on the shelf in the store but there wasn’t so again I was told to go back the following day. Now many people may have given up at that point but I’m not many people so –
Me (leaning over the counter with arms folded) – “Now we can do this the easy way or we can do it the hard way. You’re open 24 hours aren’t you?”
Supervisor – Yes, we are”
Me – “Well I’ve nothing to go home for and I’ve got all night, so I’m quite prepared to stay here for however long it takes, but I’m not leaving this store until I get my tv”
Supervisor to assistant – “Radio security”
I’m now thinking I’m going to be escorted off the premises, however when the security guy arrived the supervisor explained the position and he immediately went round behind the collection desk, unlocked the store room door and came back out with my tv, which had been sitting just inside the door – it really was that simple. So I’d stood my ground and without ever raising my voice I got what I wanted – and that’s the only trouble my tv has given me until now. And I have to say it’s been a brilliant little set – it’s even survived being dropped onto hard ground twice.
The first time it hit the deck was back in June 2010 while I was camping in Norfolk. A teenage lad playing football slipped and fell into the side of my tent, knocking over the table with the tv on it – I feared the worst but luckily the tv was fine. The second mishap came when I was camping again later that same year. The tv was on top of my larder unit which is about three and a half feet tall, and I returned to the tent after a day out to find the set face down on the floor – a wind had blown up while I was out and the tent side had bowed inwards, catching the back of the larder unit and rocking it enough to send the tv crashing to the floor. I fully expected the screen to be smashed but surprisingly it was still in one piece, and even more surprisingly the tv still worked, so even though it wasn’t an expensive set I was impressed with the quality as it certainly turned out to be drop-proof – and it’s given me almost eight years of trouble-free viewing.
So with this in mind, when it finally died a death on Monday I had no hesitation in sourcing another one from Tesco. Unfortunately smaller ‘portable’ tv sets seem to be hard to come by now and the smallest available was a 24ins but the price was right – only £20 more than my original set – it has the built-in dvd player and Freeview and a host of features the other one didn’t. Okay, so it’s pink – or rather it’s PINK!!! – but that doesn’t matter as my bedroom is pink so it doesn’t look out of place. It was ordered on Monday evening and I collected it yesterday with no problems, and twenty minutes after I arrived home it was in place and working – and if it lasts as long as it’s predecessor I’ll be more than happy.

 

A long canal walk

Have you ever started something then after a while realised it’ll take longer than you think, but if you give up part way through there would have been no point starting it in the first place so you carry on regardless? Well that was me a week ago when I set out to walk a section of the Leeds-Liverpool canal. My starting point was Bridge 91A by the Boatyard Restaurant at the side of the canal at Riley Green on the A675, just a fifteen minute drive from home, and my walk was to take me eastwards to Green Park on the outskirts of Blackburn. I’ve been along that particular section of canal a few times, the last time about four years ago, but as I’ve always previously cycled with various dogs running alongside I would actually now be walking it for the first time.
I set off in glorious sunshine but I hadn’t been walking long before it clouded over so most of the afternoon was rather grey, although the sunshine and blue sky did return briefly a couple of times. The footpath was very wet and muddy in several places too and it was quite heavy going at times so I was glad I’d thought to put my wellies on – and needless to say, the two little dogs who started out clean and white very quickly became black and dirty.
The first bridge I came to was 91B, Finnington Bridge, and just beyond it was Finnington permanent moorings with half a dozen narrowboats moored up; most of them seemed to be uninhabited but a couple of them had someone living on board. Several more minutes walking brought me to a wide bend in the canal and after the next couple of bridges I passed a boundary marker and a derelict water tower, the last remaining part of what was once a paper mill – I would have taken a photo but it’s an ugly looking building. I remembered that once I was past there I would soon see some modern houses with boat moorings on the far side of the canal but somehow they weren’t as close as I thought they were – I came to them eventually but it took a while.
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Leeds-Liverpool Canal walking east
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Finnington Bridge
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Approaching civilisation
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My next landmark was a block of modern apartments set right next to the tow path and again the distance to get to them was greater than I remembered. I seemed to have been walking for hours, I was beginning to get tired and my end goal, Green Park, still seemed a long way off. It didn’t help that I had the beginnings of a cold and I’d been feeling a bit ropey before I left home, but I’d thought a bit fresh country air would do some good – and I’d gone so far by then that to turn back without reaching Green Park would have made the walk pointless, so I kept on walking.
Beyond the next bridge, which was No.95, a large area of allotments ran parallel to the canal and stretched for a couple of hundred yards; most of them had greenhouses or small sheds on them and the side of one of the sheds had what appeared to be several dead wild animals nailed to it, though when I got closer I could see that they weren’t actually corpses but wood carvings, presumably done by whoever owned the shed. They were very well done and certainly looked quite realistic from a distance. Beyond the allotments and under the next bridge I came to four rows of red brick terraced houses set sideways on to the canal path; a large cat was sitting on the path up ahead but when it saw Sophie and Poppie it quickly scarpered halfway up a nearby tree and sat there looking daggers at us.
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If looks could kill….
From there it took another three bridges and two relatively short sections of canal and I’d finally made it – Green Park was on my left down below the canal bank. Under normal circumstances I would have gone down to the park and lingered for a while on one of the benches but the afternoon was wearing on, I still had to walk all the way back to the van, and I didn’t want to run out of daylight before I got back there so I quickly snapped another couple of shots then set off on the return journey.
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Almost into Blackburn
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Green Park
I’d been walking for a while when I came across an information board, which I hadn’t noticed before, set back off the path. It had a diagram of the canal and its bridges, with distances between various points; from there back to Green Park was 1.6 miles, and onwards to the Boatyard was three miles – so by the time I got back to the van I would have walked a total of just over nine miles. Of course Sod’s Law decreed that the late afternoon would turn out much nicer than the rest of the time I’d been out but I didn’t have time to linger – one final shot and that was it for the day, I walked without stopping again.
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My route from the yellow spot – 4.6 miles each way
The Boatyard was lit up by the time I got back there, and although the sun had finally gone down there was still quite a bit of daylight left – with all the narrowboats moored up beside the restaurant it would have made a good picture but by then I was in no mood for any more photo taking. I was just glad to see the van, get in it and drive home – I think the dogs were glad too as they just curled up and I didn’t hear a peep from either of them all the way back.
Casting my mind back over my walk it seemed strange that everything along the canal which was familiar to me had seemed so far away and had taken so long to get to but thinking about it, when you’re tootling leisurely along on a bike in the summer sunshine and enjoying your surroundings you tend not to notice the distance – until you walk it like I just did. 4.6 miles wasn’t really any great distance but double it and it was far enough, especially as I wasn’t feeling 100% fit. I think next time I go along there I’ll be back on the bike!

 

Linking this with Jo’s Monday Walk where this time she’s back in England and walking through a pub!

 

 

Why I will never go to Betws-y-Coed again

Five years ago, while camping in North Wales, I visited the village of Betws-y-Coed, and even though it’s a very popular little place I wasn’t particularly impressed with it, and for more than one reason I decided not to bother going there again. However, last Easter I thought I’d give it the benefit of the doubt and make a return visit, but I was soon to regret that decision – and an incident which happened there only a couple of months ago has reinforced my original vow to never go there again.
So here they are – my own personal reasons for never going back to Betws-y-Coed –
1 – It’s not exactly the prettiest of villages. It’s full of nothing but drab dark grey stone buildings which make it look dreary and dismal. The nicest part of it is over the bridge at the far side of the river.
2 – Every other shop is an ‘outdoor’ shop selling nothing but cycling, walking and hiking gear and expensive outdoor clothing. When I wanted some spare guy lines for my tent not one single shop had any; in fact there were very few camping accessories to be had anywhere in spite of there being two camp sites in the village. It may be an okay place for those who like walking and hiking and need to buy the relevant gear but I really don’t understand why it’s such a big attraction for everyone else, as other than a handful of gift shops and cafes there’s not much else there.
3 – The pavements are far too narrow for the amount of people walking on them, meaning you very often have to step into the busy road to pass people coming the opposite way – not good if you have a couple of dogs in tow.
4 – Shops, cafes, restaurants, even the Londis and Spar mini markets – you name it, everywhere is overpriced.
5 – Parking is a nightmare when the place is busy and you can drive round and round for ages before finding a space. My attempts to find a parking space last year resulted in a two foot long dent in the bottom of the side door of the van – and a bill for £160 for a replacement door when I got home.
6 – The Royal Hotel. I’ve never been in there before but even if someone were to offer me a million pounds I wouldn’t go anywhere near the place. I’m very much an animal lover and I abhor cruelty of any kind, so an incident which happened there in December shocked, sickened and upset me very much. Following the incident the two staff members involved were sacked but I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks the manager should also have been sacked. I’m not going into details but the link to the story is here – be warned though that it’s not very nice to read. Following on from that there’s also an online petition here – if just one person reading this blog signs it with a comment I’ll be happy.
So there you have it – the reasons why I will never ever go to Betwys-y-Coed again. Bear in mind that this is my own personal experience and opinion of the place – there are many people who do like it, hence its popularity, but it’s not for me. I’ve been to much nicer towns and villages on my camping travels and those are the ones I will return to; North Wales is a lovely place with beautiful scenery but Betws-y-Coed? – never again!