Monday, 23 July 2007

This battered isle

61469_6881  The Guardian's ode to the ever-changing landscape of British Fish & Chips. No longer greasy cod served in yesterday's newspaper, now fish and chip restaurants serve wine - and even sell batter scraps as a delicacy.

Whatever next? They'll be selling the potato peelings

This battered isle

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Allergies Cats Can Have

000_0341 When people think of cat allergies they often think of people being allergic to the cat dander and the mild to severe reactions a person can have. It is important to realize that just as people have allergies cats can have allergies too.

A cat can not tell a person when something is bothering them and they have to rely on their owners being alert enough to notice a problem.

It is important for cat owners to know and understand about cat allergies so that they can be aware of a problem their cat might develop and be ready to treat the problem correctly.

Common Cat Allergies

It is estimated that at least fifteen percent of all cats suffer with some type of allergy and if a cat has one allergy they most likely have several. Cats suffer with the same types of allergies as humans. A cat can be allergic to dust and pollen, foods, and plants they come in contact with and medications.

Most of the time a cat allergy will present itself as a skin irritation or may be seen as digestive upset such as vomiting or diarrhoea. Since these conditions may be caused by several things it will be important to have the cat examined by a veterinarian. If a person suspects their cat is allergic to some substance they should do their best to remove the substance from the cat or the cat from the substance.

In the case of food allergies there are many different types of foods available from pet stores and online that use different ingredients such as rice and lamb.

These foods may help if the cat has allergies to corn meal or to common cat foods such as chicken and fish.

If there are plants in the home or yard that cause the cats allergies the owner may want to get rid of them or at least move them to areas the cat does not go.

For dust and pollen a cat will appreciate the use of an air filtration system in the home and the owner will benefit from this as well.

It is strange to think of a cat having allergies but it is important that cat owner recognize the potential for the problem and be prepared to care for the pet. Cats are wonderful pets and do deserve the time and effort of people to provide good allergy care. If a pet owner suspects their cat is suffering from cat allergies they should make an appointment to see the veterinarian as soon as possible.

About The Author: Ann Marier writes informative articles about family life and general health issues. Click on to read her articles on allergies. Click on for other articles on general health issues.

Figuring out what your cat is allergic too is no easy task, but process of elimination and observation help. One of mine had a skin rash so bad (he would develop scabs on his ears and neck and the fur would disappear from these areas and his underarms and tummy would erupt in red blotches like hives or heat rash) that he had to be given cortisone injections.

But knowing that those are undesirable, I wanted to get to the bottom of the problem. Food is one major culprit and my dog may be allergic to certain things: she gets diarrhoea from multi-colored foods that have colorants in.

We discounted food as the problem in the cat. We eliminated any household products, because the problem improved if the cat was kept indoors.

At first the vet thought it was reaction to flea infestation, but we ruled that out too. Once everything else was eliminated, we knew that it must have been an allergy to a plant of some sort, but I live in the countryside, in a fertile valley, that has hundreds, if not millions of plants, both wild and cultivated.

Where the heck do you start?

The vet said that we could do patch tests to find out what he reacted too, but that this would be both exhaustive as well as prohibitively expensive, so I spent years watching the seasons and the rash come and go (treating it naturally with aloe and olive oil and simply keeping the cat in for spells to let it calm), before I finally cracked it when the rash totally disappeared and healed within a week of the grapes being harvested from the vines.

Now I can see why: the cats used to spend a lot of time sleeping in the shade under the vines in the summer, which is hard to avoid when there are vines - enough to produce 200 liters of wine - right here in our backyard.

It appears that the acid from the fruit was literally burning them. Mico is obviously highly allergic as he has the biggest adverse reaction; Betty, who also comes from another part of the island, is also slightly affected.

The two cats who were born right here in the valley show no symptoms: presumably come from stock that has developed immunity.

Now the only recourse, as the article above suggests, is to keep the cat away from the substance causing the allergy. In our case, I have to keep them in from when the grapes first form in June/July through until early October when they're harvested. In old man Mico's case, this presents no difficulty.

Betty is another story: she yowls at the door and tries to escape constantly.

How do you tell a cat that something is for their own good?

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Build a better mousetrap

000_0787 Cats are nothing, if not resourceful. Last week Balu found the escape route. This week, Balu got his nails cut and, La Pantera, Betty takes the prize for "Escapologist of the week." It was 80° F. / 27° C at around 2:30 in the morning here last night and cats and dog had, at various times during the day, been seen lying dead flat like trappers' pelts on the relatively cool, tiled floors. And, since we do not have air conditioning, whatever fresh air we can get is very welcome.

image The cats can no longer go out, especially not at night, so we need something in the line of screens that let air in, keep bugs out and that cats can't open.

However, as I'm renting, I can't fix anything with nails and screws. You can see the problem, can't you? Yes, cats can reverse engineer and open anything.

The screen I have made is, in reality, a recycled, folding, plastic clothes drier.

One of the legs broke and it wouldn't stand up, but I found that the moulded plastic frame that was the top of the drier, was exactly the height of the window, when standing upright, so I took the leg frame off completely. And, for me, it's perfect. It is less than the width of the window, which means that it can slide (there's a channel for it to sit in) to one side - necessary so that I can get to the window to also slide that open and shut. The makeshift screen is over a meter high, double thickness of at least 1 inch square, molded plastic and, in total is pretty heavy.

Balu discovered that the mesh is pliable: enough so that it would part for him to squeeze himself through the gaps, like toothpaste coming out of a tube.

So, I fortified it by weaving it taught with string, until I can get out to a hardware shop to buy some netting to cover it with.

But, once that route was closed, Betty just hooked the paw in and slid the whole damn thing out of her way. What's amazing is that I need both hands to do it, while pulling it back away from the window and I can't do it silently.

She can! The tough little b..... And she did, twice, once in the day and once at night. The first time, I caught her, half out of the window.

The second time, Betty, Balu and Kitty, all made their silent escape behind my back. So, there was I, at 1 a.m. trying to catch three cats, in the countryside, in the pitch dark. Two came, Balu would come so far, then ran off again as soon as I got anywhere near him. Finally rolls in at around 4 a.m. I deliberately didn't have children so as not to have to deal with teenagers rolling in at all hours!

Mico, bless the old fella, either didn't notice, or didn't care, because he didn't go outside on either occasion, which was one less to worry about.

So then I hung some wind chimes on the screen, so that I would hear when it was being interfered with. Placed a bar in the remaining width of track, which "should" be even "burglar proof". Maybe it would be, but that isn't cat burglar proof! She just pulled the screen clear and slid it in front of the bar.

We have the screen tied up in place, but Betty has already worked out how to untie it twice. The second time, I learned to tie knots that tighten if she pulls on them! Then she discovered how to release the string from it's mooring and no doubt, she'll do that again and crack whatever method I employ.

To avoid asphyxiating, what we need are air conditioning or a handyman to make proper screens, but both of those are out of the question.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

As pies become edible, we stop eating them

566505_15441081 If fast food is killing us, it has probably already killed what was once a staple of the British diet (and, what got British food such a bad name): the pie. Occasionally, I get a craving for one of those pork jobbies as illustrated right.

The dog can have the meat, but I happen to like the "crunchy hot-water-crust and pale jelly". Well, maybe "like" is a rather strong word.

Perhaps it's just perverse nostalgia for the days, when I grew up, when even Frey Bentos pies were considered to be a perfectly viable meal. At least they were in our house: my mother can't boil water or cook eggs, because they don't have instructions on the tin, but a Frey Bentos pie she could manage!

 frey_bentos Photo: sky_mitchNow, if you are in the US, I probably have to explain this, because, reading the FAQ at UKGoods, their response to the question, "Why don't you stock Frey-Bentos tinned pies?" is because "The United States does not allow these items to be imported." Probably very wise, but hardly fair: we all get your hamburgers!

So, for those of you unfamiliar with these delicacies, pictured, is "Exhibit A", a fully cooked Frey Bentos pie. They come in that tin that you cook them in, after removing the lid. And, you have to admit that it looks OK, until you read the list of ingredients that includes "two colourings, three flavour enhancers, one stabiliser and two flavourings, as well as beef fat and monosodium glutamate, "dried beef bonestock" and the enigmatic "Herb".

I knew if I looked hard enough, I'd find sites still selling these - I imagined there was a market, along with Marmite, amongst expats. Don't be put off by their designer image - at least if I put in my location in the Canary Islands - I could still buy Frey Bentos pies from UK groceries, in no less than 6 different varieties. Operative word being could: I have no intention of doing so!

smash The only things you need to make this meal just a tad more authentic would be some Smash Instant Mashed Potatoes and Mushy Peas, proudly described on the can as "Original Cooked Dry Peas, artificially colored".

mushypeas Well, that's a relief: I was worried there for a moment that the Martian / Kermit like Glo-in-the-Dark green might have been natural. Knowing it's the result of a nuclear accident would be more reassuring. Ah, yes the point ...

Well, an article in the Telegraph provoked tears of laughter in Brits of "a certain age" (those of us from the "Generations fought their way through the most unbelievably horrid rot just to keep the dream alive"), along with the disclosure that "One fifth of 16- to 19-year-olds have never eaten a pasty; 42 per cent have never tasted steak 'n' kiddley; 65 per cent have never scoffed a Melton Mowbray. Ginsters delights not them. No, nor Fray Bentos neither."

The poor things! But, if "Those days are gone. In any Tesco, you can now find an array of tastebud-ravishing ready-made pies for on-the-go singletons."

And, apparently, these days they're even edible too!

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Some things I did this week


1. I ate tortilla chips. Not many (mum said something about too much salt and other chemical things in them), but I wasn't taking no for an answer. I nearly got my head in the bag and tried to pull her arm out of the way. I pull very hard for a small cat. With claws.

(Note to manufacturers: please make bags that do not sound crispy, crunchy and tasty. The little bugger can hear one being opened at 100 yards.)

2. I became an indispensable desk accessory. I was already indispensable, of course. Now we've got a choice of the cushion cover on top of the printer or a towel on the top of the desk. Mum moved all her junk off it to accommodate us. Isn't that nice of her? Well, OK, so I cleared it all off first, but she muttered some bad words about it may as well stay off then. And it's very handy to walk backwards and forwards in front of that screen thingy and across the little carpet where the mouse plays, to keep changing from one to the other.

How could someone like me be a nuisance?

3. I learned escapology. That's a science, you know and, I practiced my experiment three times through the new screen we have at the window. Mum still can't understand how I wriggled "my fat ass" (it's only fluffy) through a 2 inch gap, which she said looked like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube, but I'm just clever. I was going for a speed record too. Each time she opened the window, I could escape quicker. Then she made the screen so I couldn't get through the gaps. So I sulked and threw everything off her desk.

Why can't we go out? She says there were wicked cats around who tried to beat me up. Then there was all sorts of poisons for rats and things. Next month there will be hunting dogs. Yes, hunting dogs, not hunting cats. My sister Kitty keeps catching things and bringing them home (well, that's not my fault), which mum has to evict and then she gets worms (Kitty does, not Mum). Uncle Mico has allergies and can't go out while there are grapes on the vines, though what that has to do with me, I don't know. Apparently, there's a lot of ticks too.

Well, I want to go out - o b v i o u s l y - so I sulked, then I piddled on the bathroom floor. And crapped in the kitchen. Take that!

Mum's in a bad mood, I think, because Betty tripped her up and she fell and hit her arm on the door frame in the bathroom. That's not my fault either!

And Betty and Mico have been camping out on the kitchen table. Service is so damn slow around here, they have to camp out, in order to get anything?

While she was serving them, I just helped myself to her chocolate milk. When I want service, I just let her know with a swift whack. With claws.

The other day, Mum woke up with her ear cut and bleeding and an earring missing (that she found down the back of the pillow) and she had the cheek to blame me for that too! So I was on her chest? Merely circumstantial.

Oh and we've got rabbits. Not for dinner, unfortunately, but mum says they've probably made a home in the bank at the top of the garden. I'd like to see for myself, of course, but she won't let me go out, will she? I think I'll have to sulk again. One ran across the road right in front of the dog's nose and nearly pulled mum's arm out of its socket. The "bad" arm that's already bruised from when Betty tripped her up. This is hardly my fault, either, is it?

And somebody's been hacking up furballs. That wouldn't be me, would it?


Saturday, 7 July 2007

Why can't Birmingham do it like Manchester?

A tourist map of Birmingham centre

The short answer to that is because it's Birmingham, of course.

This is something I've never really been able to get, but having suffered the misfortune of being born in Birmingham 50 odd years ago, I've always virtually had to apologize for it. It's never been something to be proud of, but this was never encouraged anyway, because me muvver is from a much prouder breed: generations of true cockneys. She wanted me to be born in London, but in those days, pregnant women were told not to travel, so I made my first appearance in Birmingham, which was never seen as ideal, but rather regretful.

Way back then, it was in Warwickshire too, so I was born in Warwickshire, thank you very much. I can't say that I was born in the West Midlands, because there was no such place as the West Midlands at that time.

Thus, when I have to fill out forms I just put Birmingham, because I never really got into the West Midlands concept at all. In fact, I just consider it to be Birmingham and the surrounding areas, so to me a Greater Birmingham, like Greater London and Greater Manchester is a perfectly logical idea.

Putting a great into the name would help with the confidence problem and, I'm pretty sure the city has one, even if it can't understand exactly why.

Having been to Manchester on a number of occasions, it's very clear they do many things better than Birmingham. Yes, I know, that's a blasphemous statement, but it is time Brum woke up and realized that no amount of tacky urban beaches are going to improve their press. Quite the contrary.

So, yes, I like Jean-Luc Fournier's ideas and his example of Barcelona, which is much trendier than Spain's capital, Madrid, is a good one. If they can do it, why the hell can't Birmingham do better than it's second-rate image?

Would Brum do it though, or does it secretly enjoy being the underdog?

Why can't Birmingham do it like Manchester? Via: Brum Blog

Monday, 2 July 2007

Top 7 Signs You've Integrated in Spain

image So, 6 out of 7 ain't bad and that's only because the mainland Spanish custom for fans really doesn't feature very much in the Canary Islands.

(OK, so strictly only 5 now after I had to give up the milk in my morning coffee.)

Top 7 Signs You've Integrated in Spain


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