Cats – Indoors or out?

In many ways, cats are “easier” pets than dogs. They tend to clean up their own mess (when they can) and although kittens can get up to a lot of mischief, they are not nearly as destructive as puppies can be – most of the time, and in my personal opinion.

A while ago, I read an article about how a vet recommends you should keep your cat indoors. The article actually states to keep them indoors from dawn till dusk, but there are many ardent advocates for “indoor cats” and for various reasons, which all make perfect sense.

Cats are nature’s perfect little predators and can wreak havoc among the natural wild life in your garden. I despair every time I see my lot in a little druid’s circle on the lawn, because it’s more than likely they have some poor little creature cornered. One of the four is a bird catcher. The other likes mice. And the youngest can only seem to bring me giant cockroaches! The fourth one isn’t much interested in hunting, which makes me very happy. There is very sound scientific research stating exactly how much damage they can cause…

Little mouse rescued from the hunting party

Another reason for keeping cats indoors is for their own safety. This too, makes a lot of sense. Cats roam quite far and I may be called a very bad cat owner since two of my cats have actually been hit by cars. I was very lucky in the sense that both of them managed to make their way home and I was able to take them for treatment, but this last incident got me thinking really hard about this “for their own safety” thing.

I got my first cat while I was getting divorced. He lived in my bedroom for quite a while and I will never forget the day we finally moved into our own place. I didn’t even think to keep him indoors and I was walking towards the gate when I found him sitting on the lawn, eyes closed, obviously just enjoying the sun on his little furry face.

Our little family soon grew to three with the addition of two brothers. They never liked being indoors and started jumping out of the window as soon as they realised it was there. When we moved to our new house, I did try to keep them all inside for the required three weeks, but the gruesome twosome peed over everything. And I mean everything! Animal behaviourists can tell me whatever they like, these boys, did it to get a message across – there were litter trays aplenty and cat-calming wall-pluggy things all over the house. I woke up one morning to find one little bastard pissing on ME! He was squatting on my bed, peeing all over me. It all stopped the minute I let them into the garden…

So here is my question/ statement / problem: In the horsey world, we have seen many, many people turn to a more “natural” (although I have a problem with that term too! Food for a later post) ways of keeping horses – ie keeping them in fields instead of stabled all day and leaving them barefoot instead of shoeing them. There are many reasons to do this – horses develop all sorts of unnatural behaviours such as weaving, cribbing, windsucking, stall walking and many more because of the fact that they want to be outside, moving.

So what neurotic behaviours will cats develop when they are deprived of their natural instinct to hunt and roam? (They will pee on you, for one!) My cats obviously love being outside. The little guy who has just come back from hospital spends most of his day outside on the lawn (despite his bandaged leg and the fact that I tried desperately to keep him inside), or in my herb planter box. He has been cooped up and he wants nothing more than to be outside. I can say, I will keep them indoors for their own good, but mentally, what good does it do? I know one can build catios and all provide toys to try and keep them busy, but my only cat who enjoys the smorgasboard of toys is the one who doesn’t hunt…he still likes to go out and lie on the grass and bake in the sun….It is only my opinion, but I don’t think it is right to keep cats permanently locked up.

I want to be OUTSIDE!

Is it not the same as locking my child in her room and saying she is not allowed out because I’m scared she will get hurt? Where does one draw the line?

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Life in the time of Corona: Lockdown Day 12 – I think…

We are just a tad further than half-way through our 21-day house arrest. That is, if it doesn’t get extended, which in all probability, it will. I am sorry for everyone who sees this enforced downtime as a bad thing. I am rather enjoying it and am already dreading things going back to “normal”.

For almost three years now, I have been begging life to give me a break. Since my marriage fell apart I have wanted nothing more than a little “time-out” from life. Many health professionals (read shrinks!!) have suggested that I be admitted to a clinic to recover from the overwhelming anxiety, but I really, and I mean REALLY, detest hospitals and doctors. I have been trying to explain to all of them, that all I really need, is a break. Just a little time-out to get my shit together. But no-one would give me the chance…unless I agreed to be hospitalised, which I think I very unfair indeed!

What would have been really ideal is to have had enough money to go on an extended holiday somewhere in the wilderness. Away from all modern conveniences and social media and the pressures of work and life. But that wasn’t possible. So I have been hanging on by the skin of teeth for nearly three years. Other people have paid for this – my colleagues and my children; all those closest to me.

Then, there were rumblings about a virus in China. I didn’t pay too much attention. It was far away. More and more people got infected and then some started to die. Still, didn’t really affect my life.

People were afraid. The virus can cause a fairly serious illness and even lead to death. So the world went insane and the government decided to lock us in our houses. People started downright panicking and buying shit they wouldn’t really need – who in their right mind fights over toiler paper, people? Really? But it seemed to be for real. I have mentioned this whole madness in a previous post so I won’t go into that again.

However, halfway through our involuntary house arrest, I am really rather enjoying myself! I love the slower pace. I love that I can get on with my things and arrange my day as it pleases me. I can do my laundry while the sun shines and catch up on my work when it doesn’t. It’s bloody great! I am one of the lucky ones who is able to work from home, but even if I wasn’t I think I would have really enjoyed these three weeks.

Unlike a lot of other people, I didn’t have all sorts of plans. I didn’t plan to learn a new language. I didn’t plan to get in shape. (I also didn’t decide to unintentionally gain weight, but hey, these things happen). There are things I wanted to do, but at the beginning of the 21 days, there seemed to be a lot of time left. Now, halfway through, I have decided that I can do it all later and use the rest of this time to just rest and live at a slower pace…

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Life in the time of CORONA: Lockdown day 1

And then, in 2020, the world finally went mad…

I (along with a lot of other people) have been saying that there is something very wrong with our general society and the way we live. But we have been unable to come up with any real solutions to the problem, because as Neil Daimond says, although “money talks, it don’t sing and dance and it don’t walk” (remember that, I’m coming back to that later!)

Then, for the last three months, I have been watching the world turn slowly on its head. One little virus has made society seriously rethink its priorities. I have quite deliberately not paid it too much attention because first, in this age of information everyone is suddenly an expert and it takes more effort to sift through what is fact and what is fiction than to find the information in the first place. Secondly, in my own personal little opinion, which will undoubtedly be rather unpopular, the world can do with a bit of a population reduction…

Over the last week, however, I have been forced to pay attention as South Africa first closed the schools early, and then went into total lockdown. While both of these actions make sense the way they were implemented don’t make sense to me.

Take the schools: if you are going to close the schools, in order to protect the children, then why, would you wait two days? Why not close them with immediate effect? This makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever!

Then, the announcement that the entire country would go into lockdown for 21 days. All very well and good, but why on earth not implement the measures with immediate effect? Instead, you give the citizens three days to “prepare” or whatever, sending everyone into a frenzy of panic buying, resulting in hundreds of people conglomerating in the same spot to make sure they get whatever they need. If you were serious, why not just lock everything down straight away, and that way stop the thing you want to stop – which is people. Together. In one spot.

I resisted hoarding toilet paper and all sorts of other things. But two days ago, I actually needed some things. By the time I got home, my hands were revolting from all the bloody hand sanitiser that had been forcefully sprayed on them and my head was sore from everywhere smelling like the inside of a hospital. People looked ridiculous with their gloves and masks (which, by the way have not been shown to reduce transmission) but they completely failed to do the one thing that was asked – keeping a fucking distance! I was standing in the queue at the pharmacy, because I actually needed to buy my chronic medication. I stood there for an hour. That queue has never been that long. EvER. Behind me was a man, very tall, and looking rather well educated. Do you think he could keep his distance? NO. He kept towering over me until I wedged my trolley in between the two of us and stood my meter away from the guy in front of me.

As if the general idiocy wasn’t enough, there had to be a pissing contest between various ministers, with the one announcing that there would be no selling of alcohol or cigarettes – a day before the lockdown. Do you have any idea how panicky a smoker gets when he/she realises they can’t get to any smokes? It’s like the world is ending! So, needless to say, hundreds of smokers bombarded shops and bought cartons of cigarettes and we won’t even mention the throngs of people in the liquor stores. Complete madness.

While I hear people planning all sorts of things for the next three weeks; fitness challenges, learning new languages and I don’t know what else. I don’t have much of a plan at all. I will be practicing taking things as easy as I can, and doing the bare minimum of what my job asks me to do.

Thus we get to the end of day one. More posts will follow!

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Things we’re good at vs. things we enjoy

I went to a primary school athletics meet yesterday to watch my son compete. I didn’t particularly want to go. I had work that needed to get done and it would take hours out of my day and interfere with my productivity. Mostly, I think I didn’t want to go because of the memories it might invoke…

I didn’t realise this until I was sitting there, watching everything quietly from the side. The children running, jumping, throwing things. The rest sitting on the pavilion in the boiling sun, screaming their little throats dry with cheerleaders jumping up and down with boundless energy.

It made me feel rather melancholy. I try not to dwell on the past. Ever. To the point, where sometimes I actively repress any memories about the past. Even the good ones – for fearing that I might feel that the past was better than the present. And probably to the point where I don’t acknowledge how much the past and its memories can affect the present.

I never really enjoyed school and the higher up I went, the less I enjoyed it. Which is odd. I was academically gifted. I never struggled. I was good at school. It was easy. But it still wasn’t fun. The parts I remember as enjoying and that I miss, was athletics.

I wasn’t a particularly good athlete. I wasn’t terrible either, but the only reason I ran was because the truly gifted children refused to run the middle and long distances. I loved it! I loved the practices and the meets, which were the only places that other kids really talked to me on a semi-social level. It was the only time I felt that I almost belonged.

I won a race. Once. I was 17 and it was my last year of school. I think the other schools had their “B” candidates on the track that day, but it didn’t matter. I still won. I was cheered by hundreds as I ran down the last straight and I felt as if I really mattered. For a few seconds, anyway.

Although I was quite glad not to be sitting on the pavilion screaming until my voice was hoarse, I did envy those kids and it made me a little sad. For younger me. Sad that I never paid much attention to the things I actually enjoyed doing, rather than focusing on the things I was told I was good at. Don’t get my wrong. I was never not encouraged. My mother was at every meet. She brought energy drinks and fed me pasta the night before a race because she had read somewhere about carbo-loading (never mind that I was running a mere 1500m). But no-one told me to focus on the joy of doing something instead of the achievement of it.

I never really thought about running until I couldn’t do it anymore. Thanks to a well-meaning, ill-informed friend I ran a half marathon without the proper preparation and have messed up a knee that has never wanted to co-operate since. I ran that half-marathon in 2 hours 5 minutes. If I had focused less on the achievement, and more on the enjoyment, and slowed down I might still be running today…

Sadly, I see this trend only getting stronger in this generation. I watched some of those kids yesterday. Some were distinctly more athletic than others. I even thought that the practice of having kids compete in their age groups was rather unfair, as some 9-year-olds are big and strong, while others obviously have some growing to do. They will catch up. But right now, they are being overlooked on the field. Because they are not achieving. Kids are being pushed harder than ever before. To be faster, stronger, smarter…but not happier…

I listened to the parents next to the track; Analysing kids’ running styles and criticising coaches and officials. I watched my son while he was waiting in the starting lines – clowning around and playing with his friends. I hope he had fun.

I am not one of the advocates of “everyone-gets-a-medal-just-for-competing”. Winning does matter and achievement does have its place. But it doesn’t mean we have to suck the joy right out of the act of doing something. Somehow, we need to find a balance.

Sometimes, we should do things just because we enjoy it, despite the fact that we may not be good at it…

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Death and the meaning of life

My maternal grandmother passed away yesterday. She was the last of my grandparents that was still alive and in February, she would have been 90 years old. Her death wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it’s not exactly welcome either.

I was fortunate to have seen her for the last time on Christmas day. And I knew…something inside me knew that it would be the last time I saw her… It was sad and upsetting and something about the visit awoke an intense rebellion inside me. She was basically bed-ridden and her mind wasn’t always clear. She was old and frail with a body that was failing her.

Her roommate was totally “out of it” most of the time. They lived in the frail care unit with medical staff to make sure they don’t fall when going to the toilet. She forgot to brush her teeth most of the time and she didn’t realise the phone ringing next to her bed was her phone and she was supposed to pick it up.

Ouma Baby on Christmas Day 2019

I hated the place. I didn’t enjoy the visit. The whole place had that acrid “old-people” smell. The one that reminds you that in the end, no matter what you achieved in your lifetime, you lose all dignity anyway and become as helpless as a baby. It is no way to end life…

Especially not the kind of life she lived. She grew up during the Great Depression on the banks of the Orange River, on a “water scheme”. She never lost that inclination that nothing should go to waste. Everything was saved, sometimes to the point of hoarding. But she lived a hard life. She loved telling us that when she was seven years old, she would be sent out to watch over the grazing goats – a bit like Heidi, I suppose, but instead of green mountains and snow, she had the hot, dry Northern Cape and very real African predators to deal with. Yet, she was always grateful and I distinctly remember her telling me that even though they were in fact very poor, she never felt it – they always had something to eat and she never went to bed hungry.

She married my grandfather at the tender age of 17 and managed to raise six children in one of the harshest farming climates – Kalahari – on the edge of the Namib desert. They didn’t always live there. Sometimes, during very dry years, the animals would be moved halfway across the country where they could hire grazing.

Their wedding day

She was always busy. She had a coal stove and only limited supplies to work with. She started cooking breakfast before dawn, and started on lunch right after breakfast was finished. In between, she was skimming milk, making butter, baking bread and doing washing (not with an automatic washing machine I might add!) As kids, we avoided her as much as possible – she believed that children should work, and if she couldn’t see an immediate task, she would invent one to keep you busy. So when grandpa started the old Land Rover and went out, all the kids would pile on the back as quick as we could!

Yet, some of my fondest memories will be of harvesting figs early mornings or feeding the chickens and collecting eggs. And occasionally getting chased by a goose, or her rogue rooster! In the afternoons, the two big mountain tortoises would come looking for her so that she could feed them scraps of lettuce.

She lived in a time when gender-roles were intensely defined. She didn’t have the luxury of choice. She was the wife and it was her duty to look after the man of the house. She had an almost reverent love for my grandfather who could tease her mercilessly. At night, around the table when we didn’t want to eat our supper (because he had fed us biltong, dry wors and sweets all afternoon) he would take a bite and proclaim: “No man, Baby, a dog couldn’t eat this food!”

She looked after him day and night the last few years of her life when he was dying of emphysema and lung cancer from a lifetime of smoking. She still lived for another 21 years, but I wasn’t always sure she had a purpose after my grandfather died. I could be wrong of course…it has been known to happen! But these last few years, especially, I wonder what her quality of life really was. She always smiled when you visited but later even stopped telling the stories that she had been telling us over and over and over for so many years…

To see a strong woman who faced so much in her life, fade away into a frail old shadow leaves one feeling ever so slightly relieved that she had been released from existence…

Her 80th birthday

We all die. At some point. We know this. Why is it that we feel only at the end, that our lives should have meant something?

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Murder on a Monday Morning

It is the first day back at work after a lovely holiday. I haven’t had to set an alarm clock in a few weeks and I’m not quite rested enough to be excited to go back. So when the second thing I see after making my cup of tea is a dead body, I know my day is not about to get better any time soon.

The torso is torn open with some of the organs hanging out. Bits and pieces are strewn everywhere and there are feathers all over my lawn. As if that isn’t bad enough, the furry little murderer is sitting right there purring with his eyes half closed. I swear if cats could smile, that self-satisfied little shit would be grinning from ear to ear!

The first thing I saw after my morning tea, by the way, was a half-dead cockroach which one of the other furry little bastards had brought in.

I never really thought of myself as a cat person. All of that changed once I actually got a cat shortly after my divorce. They make great companions and are every bit as lovable as dogs. Soon, I was collecting them and was well on my way to becoming a crazy cat lady – and I was quite happy with that.

There is one thing I can never get used to – all this killing! One of the many reasons I would never actually commit a murder, is because I know how hard it is to clean up blood splatter. Even the 5ml of blood in a standard-sized pigeon has the ability to make a room look like a scene from a horror movie once a cat has finished with it…

 

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Friends, family and holiday fun – part 2

Continued from part 1

For New Year’s I was treated to a quick overnight getaway to the Hangklip Hotel. I use the word “hotel” in a very loose sense, and only because that is the actual name of the place. The picture normally conjured up by the word “hotel” does not quite apply to the health hazard that is the Hangklip Hotel. The boyfriend had been there before – many times – and wanted to share it with me.

The crumbling buildings were erected in the mid 1900’s and the the place has a rich history which I don’t have enough time to recount, but you can read about it here. The main reason for our stay was to climb the hill to the old lookout point.

The state of disrepair is such that one is almost lead to believe it is made to look like that on purpose. From the uninviting (closed) front door, to the half-hearted greeting by the apathetic barman / owner, you are continually thinking WTAF is going on here? It has similar entertainment value to a freak show or an accident scene and you can’t help but be in a constant state of disgusted awe. The whole place is littered with debris from bygone years that have been left to rot away quietly all over the place. It is a perfect place to spot a ghost or two…The most interesting feature however, is the patronage. If you are a keen watcher of people, as I am, the Hangklip hotel (on New Years Eve anyway) offers a smorgasbord of characters!

We were informed that there were no more rooms available but we could pitch our tent anywhere. There were a number of other campers in all shapes and sizes. From around 10pm the camp ground became eerily quiet as everyone migrated to the famous “Plankies” pub. I am told that this is a favourite venue of many artists on the South African music scene, but sadly for this party, there was a DJ tinkering away at some electronic beats and we only stayed briefly. The party had started long before we managed to get there and the party-goers were about two stations north of where we could hope to get, even if we had all the alcohol in the world.

The nice thing about getting older is not feeling that you are missing out by not being at the actual party and we were quite happy to retreat to our tent to see in the new year. Besides, thanks to the lack of city lights the night sky was beautifully lit up with millions of stars piercing the black velvet sky; the “moonset” was the most beautiful I had ever seen. So it was in this state of bliss and peace, in a warm embrace that I entered 2020.

Hangklip translates to “hanging rock” and indeed the little place near Pringle Bay gets its name from the large rock formation looming over the little bay and lighthouse. Halfway up, is a derelict little building that used to be a lookout point to spot German submarines during WW2 and early on the first day of 2020, this was our target.

sdrDespite the wind howling the entire night, and fellow campers blaring (HORRIBLE) loud music at 3am when they eventually came back from Plankies, we were up early. I had my revenge in an act of utmost passive aggression and proceeded to blast them awake with the loudest rock I could find at 7:15 – Happy New Year (insert choice swear word here)! I do believe they got the message – thank you “Mon Amour” for throwing me under the bus when they asked who played the music!

We started at the bottom of the trail and soon lost sight of our target, due to the steep gradient of our ascent. Judging by the amount of whinging that was coming from behind me, I didn’t believe we would reach the top. I am not very fit at the moment, but the boyfriend was soon panting harder than the dog, who with her little legs was not to be deterred. We slowly made our way to the top, stopping frequently to enjoy the view.

The going was quite treacherous with loose gravel and dirt along a very steep incline, making it even harder to navigate coming down the slope. At least we were treated to a marvelous wind-free climb and the views were simply magnificent. It took us about two hours, but we made it!

It was a good way to start the new year.

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