Saturday, 27 November 2010

.....I'll be in my bunk.......

More stylish than a tin foil hat....

Remember Pyramid Hat Man of a post or two ago?

The very lovely Steerforth who writes the fabulous 'The Age of Uncertainty' blog has just sent me a link which explains it all!

Apparently, Pyradyne will supply you with a head gear pyramid which will help to make you feel no different at all, but will help to make them very wealthy indeed.  I have to admit I hooted with laughter in a very unladylike fashion when I spotted this mad-eyed creature on their website:

Perhaps she's looking a bit swivel-eyed because she's just forked out $60 for something that's been plated with orgones, no less!

Who let a goose in the house?

Sorry for being silent for so long, but that's because I have been.  Silent, I mean.  I've still got this godawful plague-thing that started back on Sunday 14 November, and today's the 27th so that's, what, 13 days so far.  Bloody hell.  Colds are only supposed to last about 5 days max, aren't they?  So Allah alone knows what fiendish virus from Hell I'm carrying around.  I can't believe I'm still coughing up chunks of lung and blowing lumps of brain out of my head.

Earlier this week I even lost my voice!  Really, properly lost it.  That's never happened to me before but I was honking around the house like a very quiet goose for a good couple of days - it was bizarre to say the least.  Laryngitis is quite odd - it's an infection/inflammation of the voicebox (the larynx) so it feels sore but it's localised at the front of your throat, around the Adam's Apple, and you keep wanting to cough to clear it but that only makes it worse.

Anyway, that's gone now so I'm back to my usual activity of mindlessly stomping around the house barking out stentorian commands for everyone to ignore.

I've also found that a cold of this magnitude is really quite effective birth control as another side effect of it is that I'm having massive coughing fits at around 3.30am to 4am every single morning which has resulted in me and TLH deciding to sleep in separate rooms for the duration so that at least one of us can get a decent night's sleep.  So me and Sylvester are in the main bed, and TLH is in the (actually, equally comfy) spare bed next door.  We're not so far away that we can't hear each other fart and snore but not so close that my hacking and swearing disturb him.

Talking of Sylvester - his scar is healing up nicely.  I managed to take out his stitch earlier this week which meant we didn't have to put him through the trauma of a visit to the vet's for them to do it.  He'd be happy about this if he knew.  We think he might be vaguely aware that Pepper's gone.  He's been particularly clingy and needy over the past few days - constantly hanging around, shouting, climbing into TLH's lap for strokes and cuddles.  I've asked him a few times 'Where's Pepper?' and I would swear blind that his eyes flicked to the windowsill where she used to sit, and he wandered over to look behind the sofa (where she would go when frightened by loud noises).  But perhaps I'm just being overly sentimental and anthropomorphising too much.  He's probably just pissed off that it's too cold for him to sit out on the bridge and we're making him use a cat tray.  On the other hand, they'd shared a house all their lives and while they didn't get on, they were never really all that far apart.

So, what else has happened?  Ah, yes.  I live in a cul-de-sac of about 23 houses and on Thursday some very good friends of ours, along with their 3 boys and their 3 cats, moved in more or less directly opposite.  I have known the parents, J & S, for over 20 years now and we are close enough friends to know where each others' bodies are buried but I have no idea how living in such close proximity will work.  I hope (and expect, to be honest) that it will be fine....

I've started another crochet blanket.  I decided to go ahead with the Babette design I mentioned in a previous post.  I've made a few squares already but I'm not sure of the colour combinations yet. Will post pictures when there's something decent to show.

We've not had any snow yet although I understand that much of the rest of the country has been blanketed.  It's been damn cold though, daytime temperatures not rising above 2 degrees.  Due to my cold and, er, the cold I've effectively abandoned the allotment for the time being - I had only managed to cover about a quarter of it with black plastic but I'm not too concerned, the frost will kill off quite a few weeds and the ground's too frozen now to dig over anyway.  When I'm feeling more up to it and it's warmed up a bit, I'll go back and carry on.  With gardening, nothing is ever unrescuable (is that a word?)

Oops, feel another coughing fit coming on (which is just as well as I'm scratching the bottom of the barrel to find things I'm allowed to tell you) - stand back from the screen now....

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

What - this thing? It's keeping my brains sharp, innit.....

First off, a word of warning, don't get too close to the screen, you might catch my Dreaded Lurgey.  Dunno where I've picked it up from 'cos I've not been near any sick people, but Sunday night I started to have a bit of a scratchy throat and on Monday woke up feeling like crap.

This was not good, not good at all.  You see, TLH and I are shameless homebodies, which means (rather obviously) we don't go out very much.  However, several months ago I bought tickets for us to go and see the Klaxons play at the HMV Forum, Kentish Town on Tuesday (yesterday).

I lurve the esoteric, psychonautical Klaxons - anyone who can combine lyrics about the Golden Dawn and science fiction space travel with fiendishly poppy and dancey tunes that get into your head and keep you awake at night is onto a winner with me.  Their latest album cover features a space-cat:

Here, have a video:

Anyway, there was no way on earth I was going to miss this, so TLH took me and my sinus infection up to London yesterday afternoon.  We decided to eat first in Chinatown and then head off to Kentish Town.  Got to Waterloo then hopped onto the underground with a view to getting out at Piccadilly and walking to Chinatown.

As we stopped at Piccadilly, we both spotted a chap getting off the train along with everyone else, and heading towards the exit.  We both stared at him, then at each other.  TLH said I had the biggest grin he'd ever seen.  We followed the passenger onto the platform and then up the stairs.  I was watching the reactions of commuters who passed him in the opposite direction.  Some just flicked their eyes sideways at him as he passed but showed no other reaction.  Others openly gawped, some young girls sniggered.  One young chap did a proper, cinematic double-take and muttered 'what the fuck?' as he drew level with us.

What was causing this reaction?  Why was I just so delighted that we had spotted him?  What was it about this middle-aged white male who dressed like a geography teacher in cords and tweed jacket and who carried a briefcase?

He was wearing a brass wire pyramid on his head.  As you do.

TLH decided we needed to follow him around the station for a bit, just to see what happened.  Mr Pyramid Hat didn't do anything unusual, he went to an ATM and then left.  And you'll be pleased to discover that we finally came to our senses to take some photos on our phones just so I could show you all.  The quality's not great but I hope you can make it out (click to embiggen):

It's a bold statement, I think you'll agree.  The genius of the look is that he appears perfectly ordinary (depending, of course, on your definition of 'ordinary') in every way.  Except for the pyramid on his head.  I was completely in awe and thrilled beyond measure.  I wanted to ask him what it was all about (although I did suspect it was probably a load of New Age 'healing' bollocks) and how he coped with peoples' reactions but we were running late and, anyway, I'm a bit of a coward and don't tend to talk to strangers, no matter how fascinating they might appear.

After we got home, I googled something like 'London man with pyramid on his head' and found a couple of references (some dating back 3 years or so, so he's obviously been committed to sporting this elegant headwear for a few years now) and a youtube video!


PS.  The gig was fantastic, one of the best I've been to for years.  Amazing lightshow and the audience was incredibly enthusiastic and bouncy.  We're off to see 'post-punk doom mongerers' Interpol at Brixton Academy in early December, which should be different - our favourite song by them is purportedly to be about Rose West (as in Fred and .....).  Eclectic tastes R Us!

Monday, 15 November 2010

What next, then....

You've all said such very lovely things about my big blanket that I feel really quite bashful now - which is saying something considering what a 'mouthy trout' I am (as my mother calls me).

But I can't decide what to do next.  Really I should not do anything for a while because, to be honest, all that intense crocheting actually started to hurt my knuckles, mainly the big one at the base of my middle finger on my right hand and the one at the base of my left index finger.  They got really achy and stiff, especially the day after a long session of crocheting. But then I suppose I am 47 years old and in the olden days would have already been written off as a granny if not already dead!

But I'm not a granny (and, what's more, never will be) and in my head am still only in my mid-twenties.  I'm still wondering what I want to be when I grow up.  This year I started dying my hair pink and have been giving vague consideration to getting another tattoo.  Tomorrow night (Tues 16 Nov), TLH and I are off to The Forum in Kentish Town to shake our booty to the Klaxons, and next month it'll be Interpol at Brixton Academy.  I'm not ready to kick off my dancing shoes just yet.

Hmm, this post has wandered a bit.  What I want to ponder is which crochet project to do next.  I'm still interested in the blanket/throw/cushion side of things rather than trying to make garments.  I have a throw made of circles and stars that I was working on back in February this year which I put to one side when I got caught up in the Summer Garden Granny blanket - I could always go back to that:

This is as far as I'd got.  I quite like it but it obviously hasn't thrilled me enough to want to carry on doing it as well as the blanket.  I'll think about it.

What I might do is another ripple blanket.  I made a large-ish one back in January this year for the birth of my latest niece, Lyra, in early February.  It's a lovely design and, if you can count to 4, not difficult to do although it becomes weirdly hypnotic and it was a relief to finish it. 

At some point I'd quite like to make a scarf for TLH in ripple stitch in some sort of manly colours - shades of brown and cream, perhaps - in a lovely soft yarn - cashmere, perhaps, or something with silk in it. Perhaps for Christmas next year.

No, I'm leaning towards doing a Babette Blanket next. This was originally designed by someone called Kathy Merrick and is made from fairly straightforward squares but all of different sizes.  It's a design that makes everyone go 'oooooooooh' when they see it and immediately want to rush out to their nearest wool shop.

Here's one:

(I bet you went 'ooooooooooh', didn't you?!)  I adore the bright colours in this one, and the outline in sky blue and then black is stunning. 

But it's just as lovely in more muted colours:

Or even, um, 'mutier'...

But, yeah, lovely though the subtle ones are, you just know I'm not about to make one that tasteful - it's bright, bright colours for me, baby - all the way!

What do you think?  Do you want to start making your own as well and we can have a 'Crochet-a-long'?  You can download the pattern as a .pdf file for $6.00 should you want to but looking at the pictures shows that it's just one particular style of square made in different sizes and then all joined together - how difficult can it be?!?!??

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Finally finished......

The picture above is a shot of the final, FINAL stitch of a large blanket that I've been crocheting since the beginning of March this year.

I'm extremely pleased with how it's come out.  The design is called Summer Garden Granny Square and you can find it at Attic24, the blog of the very talented Lucy.  There were 17 different colours in all but that certainly felt like not enough, bizarrely.  And I'm not pedantic about what I used - wool, cotton, acrylic, cashmere, even camel - it's all in there, it was the colour that attracted me.

I made squares that harmonised, complemented and clashed.  Individual little squares were grouped into a collection of four, then two borders was added around them.  I then joined 3 more of these squares together so they made a block of four, then added a border each of fern green and glacier blue.  I then attached 32 little squares around that and did a raspberry pink border around that.  These big squares were 2 feet across. 

Here's one I was blocking a couple of days ago (the very dark coloured wool used in the central four squares is actually a dark auberginey purple, and not black - there's no black or white in this blanket):

Admittedly there were quite a few days when I didn't pick up the hook and wool but not many.  By the end I was able to crochet without looking which makes doing it in front of the telly much easier.  This picture is all 9 big squares laid out on the floor before blocking and stitching together:

It didn't take me too long to stitch them altogether, and here's the final product:

I made this for our bed so here it is in its final location, ready to be sat on by our one remaining cat:

Isn't it fabulous? Even if I say so myself although this does mean I won't be able to change the colour scheme in our bedroom as it goes so well with the raspberry pink walls and petrol blue/green curtains....

I think it was worth every second of the enormous amount of time it took me to make it.  People who are not crafty and don't make things invariably have no comprehension whatsoever of the amount of time and effort that goes into creating something; they equate 'handmade' with 'cheap' and then baulk when told the price.

I calculated how many stitches I put into this blanket.  You're not going to believe it but I swear this is accurate - 47,000.  That's right - there's at least forty-seven thousand stitches in this.

And I'm probably going to start doing another one....

Monday, 8 November 2010

Sylvester loses his lumps

We had to starve Sylvester last night from 10pm and for a boy who likes his tuck, this was not welcome.  Plus there was no breakfast and that was completely beyond the pale and totally unacceptable.  He kept rushing off to the kitchen in front of us every time we set foot in that direction and then sat he sat forlornly staring at his bowls, wondering why they were stubbornly refusing to fill up with food.

At 8.30am this morning we deposited him at the vets, filled in the forms and were told to ring at 2pm to see how he was.  I asked if they would also trim his claws and check out some weird looking black spots under his chin while they were at it.

TLH and I then went home and milled around listlessly all morning, not quite knowing what to do with ourselves apart from watching the clock.  I'd already decided that they were going to find all manner of things wrong with him - his kidneys were going to be packing up, his liver had shrivelled to the size of a raisin, the blackness under his chin was obviously going to be cancerous growths - and they were going to call us in and advise us that he was so raddled with disease that it would be a kindness not to let him come round from the anaesthetic.

At 2pm I girded my loins and rang them.  "Oh, he's fine!" the lovely male nurse trilled, "a bit wobbly still from the anaesthetic so it's probably best to leave it until 4pm to come and collect him".  TLH and I started breathing again but I was still expecting there to be something negative to report when we collected him, so I wasn't going to start to relax just yet.

On the dot of 4pm we walked through the door and saw Jane, the vet, immediately.  She said it had been a fairly standard cyst but it could be sent to the pathology lab if we wanted; we decided that would probably be unnecessary as it wasn't abnormal looking.  She confirmed that all his blood work was absolutely fine, which surprised me no end.  She said she'd sutured the wound using internal stitches and it had come together beautifully, except for one external stitch at the top.

He was then brought through in his basket, all wide-eyed and bewildered, and silent.  We could see that the entire back of his head had been shaved and a big stitched incision of about 4cms in length.  It may not sound much but it's almost the length of the back of his head!  Poor lovey! Jane, the vet, said that he'd also got acne on his chin and what we'd seen were great big blackheads which she'd squeezed out for him (ewwwww).  She'd shaved his chin on both sides to access the acne leaving him with a little Van Dyke pointy beard of hair on the end of his chin.  This is both funny and sad at the same time, but also reassuring that it didn't turn out to be nasty cancerous lumps - acne we can deal with, sarcoma is something else...

The lovely male nurse said that Sylvester had refused food in the vets when offered it but they expected that he'd eat when we got him home - and so it came to pass.  We got him home, let him out of the basket and he made a beeline straight for his food bowl and shoved as much food down his neck as quickly as he could, then took himself upstairs for a lie down in the bath!

He looks as if he's had a reverse lobotomy, and we're telling people that we've had extra brains put in.  It all looks very drastic but the cyst had to come out so there was no way of avoiding it really.  It's going to take months for the fur to grow back, and it looks like he's had half his head taken away - it's so weird.  We have to take him back again on Friday just to check that everything's healing up nicely but hopefully that should be it now for visits to the vet.

I'll leave you with some photos to twang your heartstrings:

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Not been the greatest week

I'm still waiting for the sadness to lift, and it doesn't look like it's going any time soon.

In addition to saying farewell to Pepper on Tuesday, we were back at the vets on Thursday with Sylvester, our other cat.  He's had a cyst on the back of his neck that has been coming and going for the last couple of years and it had finally decided to choose this week (of all weeks) to get infected.  It's time for it to be removed.

Jane, the vet, gave him a long-lasting antibiotic injection and said that the infection had to clear up first before it can be excised.  We have to take him back to the vets tomorrow (Monday 8 November) morning when they'll do a pre-anaesthetic blood test to check liver and kidney function first, before operating.  She said he'll be back home in the afternoon.

It's bad enough that we have to go back to the vets but because he's an old boy (he's 14) there's every chance that they'll discover his liver and kidneys are bad and he's only got months to live.  I'm trying not to think about this.  I really couldn't cope if we had to say goodbye to him as well in such a short period of time.

We think he's sussed that something's not quite right at home.  I suppose he can't help noticing that Pepper's not here because they've been together all their lives.  Plus he's now the focus of all our attention, and, to be honest, I'm not sure he appreciates this too much.

I can't relax and stop fretting until he's back home and I know he's healthy, and that's not going to be until tomorrow afternoon.

We left him alone last night and went out to enjoy the fireworks.  The local display is extremely good and goes on for ages but I still felt that I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I have in the past, because I'm still sad about Pepper and worrying about Sylvester.

I also realised that this week was the 10th anniversary of my last miscarriage and the end of our dreams of parenthood.

So, yeah, I'm maudlin'.  Keep your fingers crossed for good news tomorrow.....

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Mojo needed for Pepper Bean

As I write, my lovely 14-year old longhaired girl cat, Pepper Bean, is hospitalised at the vets, suffering from what we think is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).

She went to the vets yesterday as she had been lethargic and had basically stopped eating for a day or so, although she was drinking buckets of water.  The vet found a nasty looking tooth for which she gave us antibiotics and we hoped that was that, and within 48 hours Pepper would start eating again.  Blood was taken for testing, the result of which would show if Pepper's kidneys were failing (which can cause anorexia - failure to eat) and, if they were, would indicate what to do next.  I was obviously upset about that as kidney disease is a major killer of cats.  We were to ring back this morning at 11am for the test results.

This morning we woke up to find her having trouble breathing - shallow and rapid, as if she'd run a long distance, and she was obviously in a lot of discomfort.  She was crying and was weak.  We waited until just after 11am to ring the vets and they said her blood test was fine and showed her kidneys were okay for a lady of her age.  TLH told them about her laboured breathing and they offered to hospitalise her to see what was going on.  We took her down immediately.  She was panting and crying in the car - she really doesn't like going in the car and hates going to the vet.

We handed her over and went to do some food shopping.  I was feeling okay about it all then as kidney disease had been ruled out.  As soon as we got back in, the vet rang to say that Pepper was actually very ill - she had a lot of fluid in her chest (not her lungs but between the lungs and chest wall) which was pressing on her lungs causing her to not get enough oxygen, hence the shallow, rapid breathing.  This is often caused by a heart problem and if she's not stabilised, could be fatal.  Pepper needed to be kept as calm and stress free as possible (to lower her heart rate and blood pressure, hence reducing her risk of sudden heart failure) so after needle aspiration of some of the fluid, she was given a diuretic to reduce the fluid levels and thence the pressure on her lungs, which should help sort out her breathing and lessen the stress.  They also put her in a cage and just basically keep an eye on her from a distance but without interacting too much - doing no tests whatsoever - until she stabilises.  We have a critical 48 hours for her to get through this.  If she survives then the vets can start investigating further.

She (the vet) didn't actually say the words 'hypertrophic cardiomyopathy' to me on the phone at lunchtime, but putting the words 'cat laboured breathing anorexia' into Google makes this the closest fit.  It is an incurable disease but life expectancy (assuming the cat survives the initial crisis - which is what Pepper's going through now) with medication and lifestyle changes seems to range from 3 months to a couple of years, maybe longer depending on the severity of the disease.  She'll need to be kept as stress-free as possible which might be tricky as she's always been of an anxious and suspicious disposition, but if she does get through this then obviously we'll do what we can for her.

I'm to ring back at 5pm for an update if the vet doesn't ring before.  I hope she doesn't because that can only mean things have got worse.  She said that, at that time (lunchtime), Pepper was calm and happy so maybe she'll be okay.

UPDATE: Sadly, she declined further this afternoon & the vet said she was unlikely to last the night. So we went down to say our goodbyes & she was very poorly, struggling to breathe even though they were giving her oxygen & she was obviously disconnected from everything around her. We decided we couldn’t leave her to suffer so gave permission for euthanasia, our last gift to her.  Farewell, Pepper Bean.