Friday, 24 March 2006

How small is a small kitten?

Balu, Kitty and Khan all growed up

One of the things I have always regretted when I took in three munchkins, is that in my haste (no, sorry our constant busyness, because I had a lot of help from Holly the hound) to maintain the continuous factory production line of feeding, face washing, bum licking (Holly's job) and so forth, in triplicate, is that I did not get to take any photos of them while they were still very small.

When I first got them, you could have lost all three in a shoe box, they were so tiny.

Kittens, just like real babies, sleep, eat, sh*t ... rinse, repeat, in a continuous cycle.

And the three of them are all, still, at five years old, perfectly synchronized. Back then, as soon as I'd fed, washed, shown them the bathroom and got them all snuggled back down again with a refilled hot water bottle, it was almost time to start preparing the next feed, ready for when they'd wake again.

It was an experience I wouldn't have missed for the world.

Balu, who was the largest of the three when I found them, was the same length (from nose to bum) as the distance from the base of my palm to the first joint in my middle finger - some 12 cms or approximately 4 1/2 inches.

At that time, Balu had not yet developed any distinct markings. He was white underneath, but just a a soft donkey brown colour all over the rest, which made him resemble a little teddy bear, hence the bearlike name. It was apparent, unusually, at that early age, was that Balu was going to become one big mass of fur.

Sunday, 12 March 2006

Clever Doggie

The owner is undoubtedly stupid (yesterday, I managed to completely misplace a cat, because I'd shut it between the layers of one of our psuedo double-glazed windows), but my dog certainly isn't short on brain cells!

Bless her, she's a real help.

One day, when it clouded over (yet again), four out of five cats came indoors swiftly and voluntarily. That left just one outside, who was sure to follow soon and, for reasons of her own, Holly decided to sit by the front door and wait.

Since she sat there and I certainly didn't want to hover round the door calling for ages, I casually remarked to Holly, as I went back to my desk, "Let me know when the last one arrives."

Don't you hold conversations with your animals then? :)

It didn't really cross my mind that she would listen, understand or answer.

However, about ten minutes later, she let out two short barks, so I went to the door to look. Yup, there he was, fifth and final cat waiting by the door to be let in. This I did, after which the "watch dog" abandoned her post. Job done.

Just a coincidental fluke? Nope, I tried it again next time we were waiting for a different last cat to come home at dinner time and I got the same result.

It works for keeping an eye on her "kids". She also "tells them off" when they fight, run around indoors or scratch the furniture. I've had no success yet with requests for help with the housework, but we're working on it!

Thursday, 9 March 2006

I said screen, not scream

Notwithstanding that neither we the people, nor they the boffins have the foggiest idea what will happen next in the ongoing avian flu saga, I still maintain we have an "above average" risk, given that my cats have open access to two flocks of assorted free-range poultry, within 20 yards of the front door.

For that and a number of other reasons, my plan is to make (hopefully) cat-proof screens for the windows and doors of this house. Once the grapes begin forming on the vines in the backyard, I will have no option but to keep the moggies in anyway, because my poor old Mico is allergic and comes out in a really nasty skin rash. The latest reason is to keep the bugs out.

We've had so much rain here lately that it looked like the fields would turn into rice paddies. Finally, when the sun came out and the air was warm enough to open windows, the rising humidity brought in great plagues of tiny flies, like fruit flies, carrying out bombing raids on my head and hovering around the computer. I can't work with that going on.

But how hard can it be to nail a frame together and tack some netting on it?

Probably not very, once I get the materials. IF I ever manage to get the materials! Before I can do that though, I need to know what the standard wood sizes are, so I can select the appropriate size and do all my accurate measurements.

Three of the windows have the slight complication of "double glazing". Well, not as you'd know it, but this house has old, wooden windows with cute little shutters. Once those got old and warped and would no longer properly close, they didn't remove them, they just put new sliding aluminium windows on the outside of them.

So, whatever screen I make has to fit between the two and be easily moved to open and shut the outer window. Since only half of that can be open at any one time, I intend to make the screens to precisely fit the open half, so they can slide in the gap, but fit snugly into the open space, using the window catch to lock them in place. For that, they will need to be a pretty exact fit.

Since I don't do a fat lot of DIY now, all I have to go on is a casual remark that one of the guys at the hardware store made one day, that wood sizes come in "pulgadas", that is INCHES - those Imperial English things, which makes absolute zero sense in a metric European country, but so long as I know.

So, today, I made the grave mistake of phoning the hardware store to ask them what the standard sizes are. All I got back was a lot of waffle and the usual Canarian diatribe about, "Can't you come down here?" We'll, I'd rather not, really. They are standard sizes, for heaven's sake. You'd think ...
This is typical. Nothing can ever be done here by phone, email, fax or anything other than several time wasting visits. This is when I get frustrated with the local ways, enough to make me want to scream, but it is a system they refuse to let you buck. They better cut to size and deliver once I have my carefully laid plans ready. Or, do you think I am asking too much?

Thursday, 2 March 2006

We don’t have winter here!

As I sit, wrapped in four layers of clothing in my unheated (and leaking everywhere) house that was built only for hot weather (only three months of the year here in north Tenerife), this had such a ring of familiarity:
"Either every year for the past few generations has been miraculously colder than the last, or the locals are suffering from some serious short-term memory loss which has resulted in complete ignorance when it comes to indoor heating."
Personally, I go for total denial.

But I can't even pretend to understand why.

There is no doubt that the climate has changed here in recent years, but if it gets cold in Tenerife - and surprisingly it does and always has - then it must have always done so in Cádiz.

There are some old houses in high areas in Tenerife that have fireplaces. This one does, actually, but it was blocked up long ago and the cooker has been placed in the alcove.

New houses don't have chimneys, other than the ones rising up from outdoor barbeques, but it definitely gets cold.

My mother comes here every Christmas with heavyweight, warm clothes she would never need in her centrally heated house in England. In fact, she leaves them here. I think I have more of her clothes in my cupboards than my own now. The thick fleecy track pants I am wearing are hers!

When she was wearing these trousers with my chunky boots, an oversized T-Shirt and in a moment of warmth, slipped her fleece jacket off the shoulders, she only lacked a baseball cap to be a perfect picture of the only 81 year old "rapper" in the known world. The spoil-sport wouldn't let me take a photo!

Because of the cold, tiled floors, we bought her a poof to take her feet off the floor and when she sits to watch TV or knit in the evenings, she wraps up in a microfiber blanket. I've got it round me now while I sit at the computer. Now I'm the one doing a perfect impression of a "little old lady".

Today has been awful, again, weather wise in Tenerife.

Earlier in the afternoon, just as I was taking madam dog out for her ablutions, wrapped in my newly acquired waterproof with the hood that a lifeboat man would be proud of, hiking boots, et al, I met one of my neighbours coming up the hill.

The roar of the waterfall coming down our apology for a road and the normally dry barranco under the bridge at the end of my drive was so loud, I could hear it from the house.

The road was running a great torrent of muddy water.

But, what do you do? The neighbour had to get past it somehow, because it is the only way to her house across the valley. We wrapped her normal suede shoes in carrier bags and I went with her up the road to ensure she didn't slip. My boots may be non-slip, but at ankle high, they were useless when wading knee deep in fast running water. Picture it, with my track pants rolled up like a holiday-maker on a British beach!

So, I now have a perfectly useless, totally soaked pair of boots, sitting on top of the dehumidifier (that I keep going 24/7/365). I'm freezing, but with scant hot water, can't get a bath to warm me up and wouldn't like to get out into the cold air. Welcome to sub-tropical paradise!