Guess who's come to live next door! One excited neighbour shows me a little scrap of white fluff.
She's tiny, and shivery, obviously lonely away from her brothers. (I'm not talking about the neighbour!)
Next morning my neighbour is up at five. At nine she's out of the door and driving down the road and a short while later returns ......with a brother!
I never considered myself a cat person. I grew up in a household that always contained one or more dogs. As a child mine were given endless training and grooming that they succumbed to with a good grace. I loved my dogs and was given slavish devotion in return. Cats were another matter entirely, their manners I thought disgraceful, observed at friends' houses up on table tops checking out our food, unsheathing their claws in a 'don't mess with me' sort of way and not taking a blind bit of notice of what they should or shouldn't be doing. Unreliable, incapable of discipline, remote, that was my judgement on cats.
The last dog that I owned, my smooth fox terrier, Maisie, was rarely out of my sight, whatever I happened to be doing there she was, a glimpse of her white coat in the corner of my eye.
She knew not to walk on any flower or vegetable beds and would sit in the sun and watch me while I worked. She patrolled the garden with zeal, nothing with four legs was allowed to enter, and not everyone on two! Squirrels were chased and sometimes caught and dispatched, the same with pigeons. A mole was dug up and shaken. Ugh, it apparently did not taste good! She looked such a sweet little dog but she could be an efficient killing machine.
I was concerned when our neighbours bought a pair of kittens, two small white indistinguishable bundles of fluff. As they grew they became more adventurous, taking an interest in our garden, climbing along the dividing wall or up into the trees on the border. I expressed my fears to their owners of potential damage or death should either of them tumble off the wall or out of a tree. 'They'll have to take their chance' I was told. The cats were brother and sister and they grew to be very different, the boy sporting a flamboyant coat with a ruff like a lion's mane and a big fluffy tail while his sister, Vanilla, was sleek and elegant. What they had in common was enough sense to stay well out of Maisie's way.
I was devastated when Maisie became ill and the hard decision was made to have her put to sleep. The house and garden became such silent places. I was working on the vegetable plot when I saw a flash of white out of the corner of my eye. There sat Vanilla, just as Maisie had done, in a patch of sunshine, studying me carefully. How pleased I was to see her!
She came to see me often, running forward, purring in anticipation, knowing that I would stop whatever I was doing so that she could sit on my lap to be stroked and admired. She would rub her face against mine then bury her head beneath my arm. No two ways about it - I was besotted! She was a tease, crawling into the cloches with open ends that had been set out to protect my vegetables. No point saying 'get out of there', she was a cat and wouldn't take a blind bit of notice.
She made herself thoroughly at home.
When I saw my neighbour I would joke. "How's my cat?" I've cried over dogs all my life, with no apologies for my emotions, they had given me all their love and devotion and each and every one was worthy of my tears. I never thought that I would cry for a cat. But this week her owners found Vanilla
lying out in their garden, seemingly untouched, but dead. She is buried in the orchard. She was quite simply the most beautiful cat in the world.
I've been to Lyme Regis walking along the Cobb, the harbour wall that features in Jane Austen's final novel, 'Persuasion'. My copy is from a Folio Society boxed set with wood engravings by Joan Hassall and it is my choice for this week's Friday 56 where Freda's Voice hosts contributions of a sentence or so from page 56 of any book of your choice. Take a look at the books that are featured. And thank you for hosting, Freda!
Page 56 'the child was going on so well - and he wished so much to be introduced to Captain Wentworth, that, perhaps, he might join them in the evening; he would not dine from home, but he might walk in for half an hour.' But in this he was eagerly opposed by his wife, with 'Oh, no! indeed, Charles, I cannot bear to have you go away. Only think if anything should happen!'
The high drama that takes place on the Cobb comes later, on pages 106/7 in my edition. 'There was too much wind to make the high part of the new Cobb pleasant for the ladies, and they agreed to get down the steps to the lower, and were all content to pass quietly and carefully down the steep flight, excepting Louisa; she must be jumped down them by Captain Wentworth.'
'He advised her against it, thought the jar too great; but no, he reasoned and talked in vain; she smiled and said, 'I am determined I will:' he put out his hands; she was too precipitate by half a second, she fell on the pavement on the Lower Cobb and was lifeless!'
This is my favourite Austen with it's quiet central character, Anne Elliot, who thinks that love has passed her by. And it's always interesting to visit places that have been made use of in literature. I would like to have added page 56 of 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' but I can't find the copy of my book. If you have watched the film, with the title character played by Meryl Streep, then you will have seen quite a bit of Lyme Regis and the Cobb because the film was made in the town.
'I've missed you this week, Laura Tilling. I kept thinking about you. I don't know why. You've got under my skin, how did you do that?' and he was trying to be light about it, but I could tell he meant it.
This is Rachel Heath's first novel. The story is set in post-war Britain and South Africa and is a fictional account set around a true story. The title of the book is taken from a statement given during cross-examination by Mrs Gibson at the trail of her murdered daughter, Gay.
'She was one of the finest types of English womanhood, physically, mentally and morally.'
Of course we very quickly learn that Gay was not a 'fine type' at all. I enjoyed the book and felt it well researched and well paced with a clever little sting in it's tail. When I had finished the book I still wondered how Laura and her husband would proceed with their lives.
As soon as we were back from holiday I had to go to London for a health check, staying overnight with our elder daughter. Her rooftop garden is the size of a postage stamp with little room for extravagant planting
but cut flowers are abundant in every room,
In the evening we went to a pop-up restaurant in Harrods, gawping at their lovely window displays
and the cars like pieces of bling jewellery that were parked outside!
What did we eat? Here's the menu.
At the end of the meal the chef came and joined us at the table for question and answer. I was amused to hear him describe his treatment of the charred runner beans as 'rather feral'!
For the following day my daughter had arranged her work so that we could spend some time together. What a treat! We walked across the bridge from St Paul's to see the Sonia Delaunay exhibition at Tate Modern.
See how small Shakespeare's Globe Theatre looks dwarfed by the modern buildings around it.
The London skyline is changing all the time. I like the nicknames that the new structures are given. Can you spot 'the cheese grater'?
Once in the gallery space the views of London were still getting plenty of attention
although the children were busy being creative.
After quite a bit of culture is was a 'spoil mother' afternoon. Oh, YES! I was taken for afternoon tea at Claridge's. Beautiful flower displays were arranged at either side of the entranceway.
Just how I would like my borders to look at home!
Then it was down to the business of sandwiches washed down with a glass of pink fizz before the serious ceremony of tea pouring got underway.
I passed on the warm scones because I'd spotted the cakes on another table
and I was jolly pleased that I had.
(But, do you know, they packed them in a little carton for me to take home!)
Springtime in the Mediterranean is beautiful when the ground is a profusion of wild flowers.
We were in Greece for a much needed dose of vitamin D, but so early in the year the sun can't be guaranteed to shine every day. On a rather dull day we borrowed bicycles from the hotel and explored the local area.
Another day we hired a car and looked a little further afield.
The hotel supplied us with picnic boxes.
And two of our party braved the cold water.
My, but this exploring lark is hard work!
We had booked our holiday in a brand new hotel, the Ikos Olivia. It had been open for only one week prior to our arrival and we were prepared for a bit of initial chaos. The reception was terrible, marooned in the lobby with a glass of fizz because our rooms weren't ready. Not what you want to hear when you've been up since 3am! We were disappointed with the room, when we finally got to it. It was smaller than our airport accommodation, with only a pokey shower room and a terrace with very little sun.
But we spent very little time there so it didn't matter too much.
In a few years when the gardens have matured I think that the site will be beautiful. All the planting has a watering system in place. The walls are going to be dripping in bougainvillea.
Apart from the staff at our arrival and the very frosty main receptionist who told us that the room that we had was, 'very nice' when I asked to be moved to a room with a bath, all the other members of staff were terrific. But the Olivia is a huge complex, not really our sort of thing.
Nevertheless we had a good time!
Georgio's cocktails were excellent
And all the staff at the Ouzo restaurant were FABULOUS, spoiling us rotten with a cake for the birthday girl
and singing in both English and Greek!
The food was excellent - this was my breakfast.
Yup, both plates.
Necessitating a daily exercise class!
Evenings meant another cocktail (and the opportunity for Heidi to wear another pair of heels)
Can that girl pack!
Then the serious business of studying the menu.
Mmm, veggie starter,
and grilled prawns for main.
On the last night of our holiday the outdoor theatre at the hotel gave their first show.