Thursday, July 30, 2009


Two days ago, I was wandering around the garden, with Juliet and Severus, looking for Cassie-cat. Out of nowhere, she called to me and I saw her sat a little way away. I picked her up and walked around the garden cuddling her for a few minutes and talking to her. After a while, she wriggled to get down, so I placed her back on the grass. Without looking back, she stalked off, purposefully if rather unsteadily, towards next door's garden.

She hasn't been seen since. The intervening 48 hours have been chilly with persistent heavy rain and Cassie-cat was extremely frail. We've searched, put up posters, called, asked permission to search neighbour's gardens and posted leaflets into the nearest 40 odd houses. We had some very kind responses from people and one or two reported having seen her earlier, but not since my garden cuddle.

Although when a cat goes missing there is always the faintest of hopes that they will turn up again eventually, with Cassie-cat in the condition she was, I think in our hearts we all have to accept that she's gone and she's not coming back. We had been going to keep her in, but she was desperate to go out - and we wanted what were sure would be her last few days in any case to be as happy as possible and on her own terms, following her own instincts, so we let her go. It was nice and sunny at the time. All we can hope now is that she curled up somewhere out of the rain and slipped into a peaceful sleep.

Cassie-cat and Merlin came into my life many years ago as tiny kitten fluff balls. I hadn't yet met Jon; Cassie and Merlin were my faithful companions through five or six years of a fairly tumultuous time in my life. They were my first "grown up" pets, the first I had after leaving home and the two of them will always hold such a special place in my heart. Merlin was the joker, into everything and everyone, the handsome, playful attention-seeker. Cassie-cat was the beautiful sage, much more cautious but with a depth of wisdom about her that you couldn't ignore. Together, they were witness to a lot of tears during that "pre-Jon" period of my life. I think - apart from the obvious grief of losing a much loved pet - that might be why I feel so utterly bereft at Cassie's loss. After we lost Merlin a while ago, she was my last link to that strange other life I led. Back then I was slim, pretty, confident and relatively affluent - not happy, but a very different person to the one I am now. She knew the other me in a way that my beloved Jon and Emily didn't and when they came into my life she gave them her undying loyalty and love too.

Poor Emily has wept a river for Cassie-cat; not knowing the exact circumstances of what has happened to her is very tough. So many unknowables to torture ourselves with.

Cass Cass, we love you and we miss you. We're so sorry we weren't there for you at the very end, but it seems that was the way you wanted it, perhaps hoping to spare us and you the pain of a protracted goodbye. The more I think of it now, the more I think you knew you weren't coming back when you walked out of the garden that last time. Sweet dreams, Caca-wa-ah-ah and happy reunion with your brother Merlin. It must have been a very long two and half year separation for you both.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Poorly Cassie-Cat

Poor sweetheart. She's sixteen years old now (I think) and until very recently had been in fine fettle, if rather thin, purring, nuzzling, chasing bits of string and enjoying padding around her territory.

Four or five days ago, she started coming home with soaking wet feet. Didn't think all that much of it at the time, because it has been quite wet - but she's been coming home with soaking wet feet *every* time she goes out, much much wetter than the other cats, and wetter to a higher level up her legs. She's also stopped grooming herself and has stopped taking an interest in pretty much anything except food. No purring for the last couple of days either.

Last night, we were trying to dry her paws off for her and spotted patches of very red and sore looking skin. Kept her in, to see what her feet would be like when dry - still red. We don't normally keep her in because she claws and claws to try and get out, which won't do poorly feet much good or indeed her mental health much good. She doesn't appear to have any pain there and doesn't object to her paws being touched and is still walking as well as can be expected for her age and stiffness. This morning she was absolutely desperate to be let out - and then she came back with soaking wet feet again. They're wet beyond what you might expect from a cat walking through wet grass. I suspect she's visiting a pond or something in a neighbouring garden and standing in it.

I don't know whether her feet are sore because they're wet all the time, or conversely whether her feet are sore for some other reason and she's getting them wet because it helps soothe them. It looks like a trip to the vet might soon be in order, although we'd been trying to avoid that because it puts her under so much stress. There's also, of course, the thought that the vet might voice the opinion that she's come to the end of the line and that the kindest thing would be to put her to sleep. While Cassie's not exhibiting any signs of actual pain, we'll hold on for a few days and see if it clears up, otherwise we'll have to see. Her quality of life seems to be disappearing. It's so sad. We lost her brother Merlin two and a half years ago after a long illness - to see Cassie cat now fading away too is heartbreaking. Lots of tears being shed here while we try to work out what's best to do.......if only she'd get back some of her spirit and start to purr again and take an interest.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Still Here: Quick Catchup Plus Links

Well. Only 15 posts on this blog so far this year....not a good thing.

It would be impossible to properly cover the missing ten weeks or so between my last post and this one, not to mention mind numbingly boring for anyone who doesn't have a close personal interest in our lives...and those that do already know what we do. So I'll settle for the edited highlights before getting back to home ed. Lots of text here and no photos except in links....bear with me!

Following my brother-in-law's death, his partner Barbara came to visit from Canada and stayed a while. As soon as she left, Emily's friend Maisie came to stay with us for a two night sleepover. On the Saturday, we took her to a falconry centre near us and the girls had a whale of a time there. We also went strawberry picking and they made fantastic strawberry and white chocolate cakes together. A few days after that, Emily went to St Bees with my Mum and Dad for a little holiday; as it turned out, they only stayed a couple of days, but they did have a lovely time while they were there, marred only by the discovery that the excellent Sellafield Science Discovery Centre was in the middle of closing down.

During June, Jon and his father both celebrated their birthdays and around that time we went on a family trip to Magna too, which was excellent. Emily and I also visited Bempton Cliffs and saw some puffins! Photographs from Magna, Bempton and from the falconry centre are here. I'm so far behind with blogging now that I can't upload them individually here. Eep. At some point (brain fog) we also visited The Collection in Lincoln with Jacki, Mei Lin and Jasmine, who we've continued to see every Friday, alternately at their house or at ours.

There were assorted hospital and doctor trips scattered throughout this period and at the beginning of July Jon went away on a week long mediumship course, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Last week, Emily and I went to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Price on its first showing at our local cinema; loved it to bits. Emily's still doing karate and kickboxing every week and last weekend she went to Maisie's birthday sleepover party, which she enjoyed very much. Preparation is already under way for Emily's 11th birthday party sleepover, lol.

All four cats and Lulu the parrot are still well, healthy and happy...and shortly to be joined by two new members of the family in a few week's time....two new kittens, half brother and half sister to Severus, born to Sevi's mum at Jacki's :-)) Lulu's antagonistic and aggressive behaviour towards Emily suddenly vanished a few weeks ago and she is now very affectionate towards her junior flock member ;-) Lulu is starting to talk and has mastered "hello" and "good girl" and just today is making huge efforts to say "peep-o" because I've been playing peep-o with her at teatime for the last few days.

Since my last post, Jon has done two more paranormal investigations, which he has thoroughly enjoyed. He was able to give lots of accurate information on both and on the second one in particular some brilliant video footage was captured, showing two unidentified figures. A brief clip from this investigation is on the paranormal team's website. The footage is very dark, but immediately after the screen says "someone makes an appearance", you can see a figure which seems to be wearing glasses appear, peer over Jon's shoulder and then move away. You might have to stand up and/or darken the room to see it properly. Anyway, this figure was not anyone present on the night, was not noticed by anyone at the time and is not a reflection (Jon isn't standing in front of mirrors) and remains unexplained. Later footage from this same investigation (not online yet) shows a glowing white figure in a doorway, again not noticed by anyone at the time and as yet unexplained.

Home Ed
Emily has been getting through quite a lot of education recently. She's working on maths with my father and has been working on a whole variety of things with me. We're just about to start a gothic literature project, studying Dracula, Frankenstein and Edgar Allen Poe.

We're on the verge of wrapping up a world war two project, which has been very successful. During the course of that, Emily's done a lot of work ranging from understanding appeasement to debating the causes of the war, from the morality of the Dresden and atomic bombings to the intricacies of D-Day, from the horrors of the holocaust to the everyday life of British residents and the home front. She interviewed my Mum, who lived through the Blitz as a young child, and read about my Dad's very different war experiences in Northern England. We've read part of Anne Frank's Diary, watched the Anne Frank Film and also watched Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Carrie's War, as well as newsreel clips from the time and the horrific first ten minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Was going to watch Schindler's List, but changed my mind....that would have been a step too far for her age, no doubt. An amazing resource for all of this has been World War II at the National Archives - this is full of detail and has indepth investigations to carry out for many of the turning points and issues of WW2. We've also very much enjoyed a D-Day souvenir pack that my Mum and Dad picked up from a second hand shop, which had facsimile newspapers, letters, telegrams, maps and notices dropped for German troops.

Emily's really enjoyed this modern history. I'm not entirely sure the horrors of it have fully sunk in - my voice would often catch as I was reading her something, and tears would prick during some of the films; Emily on the other hand has taken it very seriously but not particularly emotionally. Perhaps she's just that one generation too far removed from it all; perhaps she's just being ten. Either way, I'm confident that she has a very good understanding now of what went on, why and how and probably a better understanding of the moral issues than many schooled kids would have. She would like to continue with modern history, so after a break from history I think we'll move on to looking at things like the Cuban missile crisis and the cold war.

We've also begun some work on the Antarctic, watching a documentary about the Scott-Amundsen race to the pole and creating an annotated wall map of important points in Antarctic exploration history. We're now moving on to look at the wildlife and at the environmental concerns surrounding the continent. Two excellent sites useful for this are Discovering Antarctica from the British Antarctic Survey and Classroom Antarctica from the Australian government. Both packed with lots of ideas for things to do.

We've been gradually getting back to doing more arts and crafts too. Emily's two thirds of the way through sewing a beautiful white kitten soft toy and recently we've also done lots of photography (forced perspective photos and a colour/texture photo montage) plus chinese brush painting, pattern mandalas and the Northern Lights in chalk pastels. Photos of some but not all of these are here - some of them inspired by the lovely Elle at Ellie's Treasures and in turn by a site I found linked (I think) from Elle's site, Homeschooling Ideas.

Emily has also been doing a LOT of baking and has conjured up all manner of cakes, cookies, biscuits and muffins. She has also been teaching herself animation techniques on the PC and continuing to work on her Warrior Cats book. We've been having many morality/ethics/citizenship type discussions too, including about animal research, the essence of Britishness, immigration and the law.

So, that's maths, English, history, geography, art, cooking, citizenship and IT covered - lol. I'm still trying to work out how to approach science from now on. This is a tricky one. Emily loves science, especially chemistry and biology, but she's at an age now where most of the "do it yourself at home" type experiments are a bit lame and we don't have access to secondary school level equipment in most things, although I know my Dad's got a few things up his sleeve for physics. It's too dry to just work from a textbook except in very small doses, but watching experiments online doesn't really cut the ice either. I think we'll have to watch lots of documentaries instead and I'll try to dig up some interesting ideas from a few sites I have bookmarked, like these ones:
Physics and Ethics Education Project
Bioethics Education Project
Creative Chemistry
The Naked Scientist Experiments
Active Science
BioEd Online

Phew, bit of a brain dump there, but hopefully someone might find some of those links useful. We do have some great science resources, I'm just now sure what to do with 'em. I did post earlier in the year about a great book which shows you how to create a "proper" chemistry lab at home, but we can't really afford that at the moment. We shall see.

Anyway. That's where we are. Financially, Jon and I are still muddling through chaos, with bad news piling upon bad news when it comes to contracts and earning opportunities. But we're managing and we've got I'm feeling relatively confident about the future. And am determined to get back to blogging properly!