Chaos to Cosmos
The path from chaos to cosmos was discovered by telling one's life story

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Allergies Cats Can Have

Bettty under the vines

When people think of cat allergies they usually 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.

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 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?

Monday, 28 May 2007

Tudor Pull, Dongola Races, Pointless Fiestas

Sunbury Regatta River Thames Dongola Race
Image: Motmit [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In all the years - about 20 - that I lived within walking distance (when I was considerably more energetic) of Hampton Court Palace and constantly visited there, I never knew there was an annual Tudor Pull from Hampton Court Palace to the Tower of London. Like most of these things it all seems incredibly pointless to have a "processional event", rowing up the river Thames, commemorating something that everyone has long forgotten, with a ritual "ceremony of giving back to the Tower's governor the thing that he had specifically sent away to Hampton Court so that it could ceremonially be returned to him." 

Just like so many festivals in Spain that honour the locally "revered" icon that is ceremonially brought out of the church, only so it can be ceremonially taken back in again. Nobody can ever explain why it's locally revered, but it's a big event where people, mostly, turn up for the food and wine. Crowd size, naturally, increasing in inverse proportion to the "freeness" of the said refreshment. 

It's funny, but when you've been away for a while, one tends to forget that Britain also has it's fair share of these unexplainable and decidedly strange customs. 

The closest I ever got to anything like it was joining one of the teams in the decidedly less regal, "dongola" racing in the annual Sunbury Regatta. Dongola racing, in this context, for those who don't know is where competing teams of I forget how many (representing fine local establishments, such as The Jockey Pub, who supported their team members with free T-Shirts and free beer), kneeling up, rowing punts upstream on the Thames, Hawaii Five-O (dragonboat) stylee. Well, I think we maybe moved the thing a couple of boat lengths before being tipped and sinking into the murky waters, but that was the intent anyway.

We'd trained hard for this: Half an hour's worth of cursory punt hire - we threw a line to a passing motor launch who towed us back up river when we'd had enough - followed by several "challenging" nights down the pub. Perhaps that is the point?

Monday, 14 May 2007

Falls and crashes ...

Two caídas (falls): You may laugh (now) at the first of these, which involved an unidentified wet patch on the bathroom floor, probably leaked in via the porous roof, the result of which, I ended up, legs in the air, one either side of the bidet. Actually, I did hurt myself: I bruised my elbow on something and my right arm ended up inside the bath, so the rim of the bath came up under my armpit. That caused great pain in my shoulder. Falling on my bum reactivated an old "war wound" from when I slipped down the slope outside the house in the rain six years ago and hurt my hip. My back aches ... In fact, I just ache everywhere, even in parts I didn't know I had, but for the first few days, all I could stand to do was lie flat.

Just when I could manage a bit more time at the computer, my internet connection decided to suffer a caída (also the word used in Spanish to mean "crash" in this context.) One never expects much from Spain's former nationalized phone company, Telefonica, but their level of "help" for DSL customers, it has to be said, reaches an all-time low. I'd go elsewhere, but it took me 6 or 7 years to get them to give me broadband here and, there is no alternative at all in this rural area yet. So, after running all the diagnostics, it tells me that the broadband isn't working right now. Well, that was bloody helpful, wasn't it? That did infer that my setup was OK and the problem was therefore at the other end. Nothing new there. The DSL gadget at our local exchange suffered a total caída a while back and we were offline while they had to get that fixed. It could have happened again.

You would think that the natural thing to do would be to call the "help" line and, that is what I did. As soon as I got through, I was told, in no uncertain terms, like I was a naughty child or a piece of shit, that I had to completely unplug everything and basically do the technicians' job before they would even talk to me. They wouldn't check the situation at the local exchange first, to see if it might have been them and, that might have saved me the bother. Crawling about on the floor, twisting round the back of the computer, at my age and in my state of health was no picnic. And the first two goes just made the situation worse.

Many swear words later, I decided just to leave it. Later, third time lucky - probably by then, whatever it was at their end that, I suspect, had been broken, had been fixed - fortunately, because I really didn't want to have to talk to those nasty rude people again. But it really shouldn't have to be like this, especially when it costs me around $100 a month for this "pleasure".

Thursday, 19 April 2007

How to Go Completely Bananas

Completely Bananas
Going Bananas
It's hardly surprising that I have once lived on a banana plantation - since the Canary Islands are famous for them - where these bananas were growing a few feet from the door. It was certainly an interesting experience, but one I only recommend to people who enjoy lots of dust and interminable swarms of flies that make it absolutely impossible to open windows, which is not great in sub-tropical heat.

Anyway, consequently, I often get an awful lot of bananas to eat ...

One problem single cooks come across frequently is the need to buy food in packs or quantities that are too large for single consumption, which can create a lot of waste or a lot of leftovers. But what would you do if you were given this many bananas for one - around 20 kilos of them - as a gift? My landlady, brought me all of these from her plantation. Well, I abhor waste, so for the last couple of weeks, I've been doing my level best to ensure that they have all been used or stored.

Arroz a la inglessaA local specialty and one which I frequently throw together is Arroz a la Cubana (Cuban Rice, which I have on authority, is never made in Cuba!) It's a perfect dish for using bananas that are slightly more ripe than I like for eating raw.

Fortunately these bananas ripened gradually and not all at the same time.
"The easiest way [to store them] is just to throw them in the freezer ... yep skins and all. When you are ready to use them for baking, just defrost, snip off the tip with scissors and squeeze out like toothpaste!"
Yes, it's fortunate that I like bananas, but ... One warning: your mileage may vary, of course, but if you do ever have a large surfeit bananas, do please store them instead of trying to eat too many at once. My experience has been that, after an initial upturn in what we shall politely term "human waste production", the over consumption quickly provoked a pretty severe case of "banana blockage".

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Tip o' the Day: The Solar Dryer - Free

"Some call it a solar dryer. Our moms call it the clothesline. Nature's way of drying clothes, and nobody seems to do it anymore. Some say it brings down property values. Others say that only those that "stay-at-home" can do it. We say, give it a shot."
Solar drier, indeed. Like we need a new name for it. We should do this. I'd love to, but oh, if only it were that simple: Renting means that I cannot make holes in walls to put up an old-fashioned washing line, wherever I like.

Bent TreeStrong winds - I mean gale-force - buckled a whirly washing line within minutes of digging a hole into the incredibly hard, volcanic soil, filling it with cement and getting the thing fixed up. Well, if the wind can do this to trees in this valley, it's hardly a surprise.

Frequent rain and constant low-lying cloud and mist mean that several months can pass when nothing will dry outside here. This rain and fog (it's really low cloud) used to be confined to the winter months, but in recent years, this has even occurred throughout the summer and now, in spring, it has become erratically changeable so that one day can be dry and sunny, the next misty or the morning can be warm, then cloud descends - by surprise - in the afternoon. Yes, I know this is constantly warm Tenerife - Island of the Eternal Spring - but this is a fertile valley in the north, where "horizontal rain", brought by the trade winds, condenses onto the mountains. That's how we get our year round greenery and Spring flowers. 

And the house is unheated and so damp that you cannot dry clothes indoors. If you try to bring even mildly damp clothes inside, even just overnight, they get that horrible moldy damp smell that you can never wash out again and that requires you to simply throw the items away. You should smell the perfectly dry stuff that I brought here when I moved in. The move was made on an incredibly hot day, direct from the desert south of the island. All I did was put things in the wardrobe: you know, where you expect to put clothes. Thousands of pounds worth of quality clothes; classics, designer suits, leather and suede items, boots and shoes, all went green, moldy and were ruined.

Anyway, it means that to dry a towel, for instance, I have to be able to absolutely guarantee at least two full, consecutive days of dry sunny weather, before I dare to do the laundry, if I wanted to hang it outside. Well, you can't guarantee the weather, so what options did I have? None. I had to buy a tumble drier.

But, having been forced into this, there are other considerations: One, having a dog and four cats, is that the drier sucks all their hair off of clothes, bed linen, etc. Pharmaceutical companies would get richer and use more energy to treat my allergies without the drier - not to mention that it is healthier for me.

The electrical supply in this house is so weak that I can't run any other appliances at the same time or it all "trips" off, so I'm not using extra and would hardly call this a "convenience". Running the drier is costing less and must be using less resources than constantly replacing clothes.

Another benefit is that I haven't used an iron in over decade. That must have saved energy (mine and electrical), so it's "swings and roundabouts."

Now, if only I could run the drier off solar energy ...