Late-night Shopping

Multi-coloured clothes pegs

 
He shivered at my door
And in his hand he held
Multi-coloured clothes pegs which belied
The black around his tired eyes and
The whiteness of the knuckles that gripped them in desperation.

It was his final sales round he said –
As if we might imagine that door-to-door sales of clothes pegs
Hadn’t ended in 1979 with the garish caravans and bridled ponies that brought them.

He was sorry to knock so late.
He knew folk didn’t care to be disturbed after nine,
But it was our last chance for he was off to sell his wares in Orpington tomorrow.
Or was it Neasden?
He couldn’t remember but was concerned we might miss out
On an offer we couldn’t refuse.

He had lap-top screen cleaners too and,
Naturally, zip-lock bags. Everything you might need
At ten o’clock on a Monday evening.

My heart was full that night and
I had already been counting my blessings and taking the liberty
Of counting those of my friends and my loved-ones and
I had held Graham particularly close when we kissed goodbye that morning.

I said that the marker-pens in his bag looked especially lovely
And a large grin split his thin face as his pigeon-chest puffed out
With pride at the goods he had undoubtedly chanced upon
Hours earlier.

They were his favourite and he could certainly do us a deal
If I wanted the lot – although it would be hard to part with such items
At such a price. I had a kind face and it was late and his family was waiting.
For the move to London, I presumed.

I gave him a note, too big for the price, and as I passed it to him
Our fingers touched briefly and in that moment I knew
That he knew and he knew that I knew.
And I hope he knew that I wished him luck.
 

Toe trauma

Stubbed toe

 
You rushed along,
You were too quick!
Your toe stuck out a little bit.

Your foot missed its mark
And caught the frame.
That bloody floor-polish was to blame.

You see toe strike.
You feel sick.
The clock holds back its final tick.

You stare in horror
As time slows down.
The air grows thick and close around.

You see toe crumple
At a monstrous angle.
Bits of nail appear to dangle.

You grit your teeth.
Blood at temple pounds
Blotting out all other sounds.

You know what’s coming
But all stays still.
Can pain be deferred by pure act of will?

A second’s grace
Seems to stretch for hours
As you invoke your superpowers.

But a clock’s second-hand
Won’t long be stayed
And the next minute thereby is now displayed.

As pain explodes
Your tears are streaming.
You’re surprised to note some distant screaming.

One single thought
Now ousts all others;
A piece of sagely advice of Mother’s.

What did she say
When we were nippers?
Do not run, and wear your slippers!
 

Yogi Eulogy

Yogi Bear

A eulogy for JOLINIQUE Yogi Bear, 29 November 2001 to 2 March 2017.
He came to us as a tortured soul, but left loved and loving.

The day Cats Protection dropped Yogi Bear and his sister Yasmin off to us at the relatively tender age of 3, Yogi prowled around the room inquisitively sniffing the new surroundings. “That’s unusual,” Beverly the Cats Protection lady said, “he’s been hiding in corners the whole time he was at the foster home. He must be coming out of his shell!”

He wasn’t. We barely saw him for the next 5 years or so. He took up residence behind the sofa in the spare room (with a convenient radiator behind it) and there he stayed. After a year we might see him come down in the evening to eat and drink, or use the litter tray, but this generally happened during the day when we were at work, or during the night. The only evidence that we had a cat, other than his more gregarious sister, during that time was a poo on the wooden floor in the corner of the kitchen. Or occasionally in front of the TV or, just to keep you on your toes, in front of the bathroom door. We started leaving lights on at night to ensure safe passage from bed to loo to avoid treading in any evidence of Yogi’s existence. Luckily he always pooed on a wooden surface which was easy to clean, and never weed anywhere other than in his tray. If he had weed with the gay abandon with which he pooed our relationship such as it was would have come to a very abrupt and early end. His name evolved from Yogi Bear to Pooh Bear to Yogi Poo. He would answer to all three, or not, as was more usually the case.

We saw more of him in years 2 to 5, but the slightest noise from the outside would send him scurrying to hide (he had a particular horror of crying babies, but I think we can all forgive him that). Given that we live on a busy road and our front door opens straight onto the pavement, this happened a lot. If anyone should so much as knock at the front door, much less enter, he would not only hide but not reappear for a good 24 hours. People thought that we had made our other cat up.

He and his sister had never been close. When we first had them they were so scared that they would hide in a corner and literally lie one on top of the other so they could squeeze into as small a space as possible. We had assumed from this that they got on. However, it soon became apparent that they couldn’t stand each other. Other than the nightly spot-the-poo competition, the other main evidence of his existence was clumps of fur sticking out of Yasmin or a new scratch on her nose. He was a bully in almost the full human meaning of the word. Cowardly in his own interactions with the world, he was jealous of his more confident, smaller sister and punished her for the love and attention she received that could have been his for the asking.

After 5 years when he was around 8 years old he started to mellow a little bit. We saw more of him in the evenings and he would sometimes sit in close proximity – never touching us – but near enough to join in with the family vibe. A knock at the door would still send him scurrying to hide but he would reappear within hours rather than days (unless the guest stayed – people outside of the family would still not believe we owned a second cat). He became more affectionate towards us and we discovered that he loved kisses rained down on the top of his head – much as you might imagine an 18th century lothario repeatedly kissing the back of his beloved’s hand. He became very vocal and had the loudest miaow of any cat I have ever owned, particularly if he wanted Dreamie treats which were his favourite.

Although he seemed to enjoy being stroked for a short while, he could never stand being brushed. For a short-hair cat his fur was long, but personal grooming was never top of his priorities and his fur grew matted and clumped. During a check-up with the vet when he was around 12 we asked if the vet could help with this and she suggested shaving him. We agreed, and when she finished the pile of fur removed easily towered higher than the rat-like cat that shivered beside it. We hadn’t timed this well and the weather was cold. Yogi therefore discovered for the first time the benefit of getting beneath a duvet. He couldn’t work out the difference between the edge of the duvet and a wrinkle in the top and would paw randomly at the cover until either he was able to flip it up to get his head under or we held it up for him. Spooning with a purring cat was an unexpected experience but he seemed to enjoy it and his temperament improved further. I hate to think that for all those years at least some of his grumpiness could have been down to matted fur (which can irritate the skin beneath) but we’ll never know.

At the age of 13 his sister died suddenly (probably from cancer but it was so quick there was no investigation). We were told that Yogi might go into decline at the sudden loss of his companion. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Almost overnight he became much calmer, more loving, and much more confident. A knock at the door would send him to the stairs (a pivotal point from which to continue to flee if the visitor turned out to be the cat-attacking sort) but he would soon come down and ask for food or use his tray. Guests were amazed to find out that Yogi Bear really did exist and was not simply a figment of our fevered imagination. Over the next year it got to the point where a knock at the door would do nothing more than make him raise his head to see who might be coming in – after 11 or so years of the scardiest cat I’ve ever known the difference was startling. The death of poor Yasmin really was the start of life for Yogi.

During this time he was diagnosed with pancreatitis. This manifested itself generally in vomiting. Since much of our house is wooden-floored, and we were used to the poo situation, we took this in our stride. Literally. Scoop, spray, wipe was second nature to us by now and since we had a loving, attentive cat to show for the effort we didn’t resent it. However, Yogi’s weight slowly but inexorably went down – much as the weight of the other members of the house went up. Yogi had always been a fussy eater but he started begging for food, eating a tiny amount, and then begging for more a few hours later – constantly and throughout the night. He would walk around licking the floor and the French windows and became bedraggled-looking and rather forlorn. Graham took him to the vet’s and the nurse felt a small lump in his abdomen. He would need to go back the next day for an ultra-sound which the vet would need to perform. Best case scenario was that it was poo (which would have been ironic). Worse case was… well, clearly cancer.

That was today.

The ultra-sound showed that it was a tumour situated by the pancreas. The pancreatitis, the weight-loss, the neurotic licking behaviour, everything indicated pancreatic cancer. Only opening him up could confirm this for sure – but we decided that even if it were cancer we wouldn’t go for chemo-therapy. It wouldn’t have been kind at his age. Pancreatic cancer is aggressive and painful and the palliative care itself unpleasant. So we made the hardest decision we’ve had to make, and made the call to have Yogi Bear put to sleep. The decision to end the life of a being that would, at least, have had days, maybe weeks, possibly months of OK life – but also likely have had a time of uncomfortable treatment and unhappiness – tore us apart. Was it for our comfort and convenience or his? We agonized but made that call. And now, several hours and rivers of tears later, it feels right. So right that I can draft this eulogy for the tortured soul that had been Yogi Bear and for the loving, comforting, and joyful companion that Yogi Poo became.

Flying low

Fly down

I was walking past a sex shop today when a brisk wind alerted me that my fly was down. I quickly turned to the wall (of the sex shop) to adjust it and turned back to make direct eye contact with a neighbour walking the other way.

Let’s just say…awkward.

Graham’s pet life

Graham

 
There was a little baby,
His parents called him Graham.
He had a mop of chestnut hair
And dimples that would slay ’em.

His parents taught him right from wrong
And how to say his prayers.
But that didn’t stay his hand that day
When he threw the cat right down the stairs.

He didn’t know that this was cruel
And cried when he realised.
So when the cat made to run away
He wasn’t quite surprised.

A tortoise was the recompense
And Tommy was his name.
And though Tommy didn’t play that much
Graham loved him just the same.

Tommy rather liked to sleep
And would stay snug in his shell.
So when some git stole the little guy
It was rather hard to tell.

When the pain had at long last passed
The family took in a dog.
Candy was a well-named beast
Since on doughnuts she would hog.

Graham tried to help the mite
And swapped the doughnut for jam tart.
But the harm had sadly now been done
And so stopped Candy’s heart.

After this his own was broken
And quite numbed through from grief.
He then swore he’d have pets no more
And pet-shops sighed back in relief.

Yet many years passed, and later
He took in two rescue cats.
They got love and care and dreamie treats
And hessian-tough scratching mats.

He loved those two sweet pussies
Who turned round and loved him back.
He doted on their every need
And put their lives right back on track.

And so the curse was lifted
And love filled a happy house.
The only soul here with something to fear
Was a timid little mouse.
 

You’re in trouble

Yogi meowing

The vet says that Yogi needs to have his urine tested for kidney function.
We have to use special cat litter in a tray and shut him in with it until he goes.
The urine will then float on top of litter to be syringed off and brought back to the vet within 12 hours.

Are you taking the piss? I asked him.
No, but you will be, he replied.

Naked jogging

Bum crack

Top life hack. Buy tracksuit bottoms that are slightly too long in the leg for you and you’re treading on the ends.

When you climb the stairs to bed you will find that the bottoms have removed themselves for you along with your pants, saving time in getting straight into bed.

If it ain’t broke…

whisky

 
When I was buying my lunch I saw a bottle of apple flavoured Jim Beam behind the counter, and was tempted.

Just had a little tipple and bleurgh!! Another bottle to sit in the cupboard until a late night gathering runs later than the off-licence closing time!

Locksmith lock-in

Prison bars

Graham and I have just been released from 5 hours of prison! We were about to take our pre-lunch constitutional walk today – and found the front door wouldn’t open! And we don’t have a back door…

The shop manager next door tried to open it with keys passed through the window but no luck. So we’ve been waiting all day for the emergency locksmith.

In the end he managed to fix it – but only after squeezing through our neighbours’ small stair window and pirouetting onto our balcony to gain access. The poor guy was a man after my own appetite and not the sveltest locksmith in Sussex – or probably even in the street – so I think he’ll have a few stories to tell his kids at Burger King. Which is where he tells me he and his family were about to go before our emergency call…