Last night I was watching a DVD and Penny (as always) had curled up on my lap to ‘watch’ it with me. There weren’t many films that both Penny and I liked, so generally she’d do this and then fall asleep. At the end I noticed that she wasn’t really responding to my making a fuss of her anymore. I put her on a soft cushion next to me, but it was soon clear that she wasn’t going to be waking up again. About three quarters of an hour later as I was gently stroking her, she quietly died. I wrapped her up in her favourite blanket with her favourite toy.
All day I’ve been realising how many little things I do in a certain way because of her, which now don’t matter anymore. I think it might be a while before I watch anymore DVDs, as since Penny came to live with me after my mum died, I don’t think I’ve watched a single one that she hasn’t sat and watched with me too. I will miss her a lot.
Right now I’m listening to nothing.
In much the same way as everyone (except the most optimistic or stupid) have sort of resigned themselves to never having it so good again as a result of the economic realities we presently face, the population of Cactus World has been much comforted recently by the safe return of Penny from her visit to the vet, but realises that this is, at best, more of a stay of execution than anything else. When a vet says, ‘well we could do some blood tests” but then doesn’t pursue the suggestion, it does give you the feeling that what she’s really saying is, “well we could do some blood tests, but actually she’s old, she’s not going to live much longer and if we do find anything more specific wrong with her there’s probably not much we can do about it anyway”.
Penny is having a lot of trouble walking now too, as her back legs don’t seem to be working very well and she can’t jump up onto anything either; she has tried a few times but never gets off the ground. This wasn’t a problem until the last few days, as she was able to walk okay when she went to see the vet. She doesn’t seem to be in pain though, thank goodness, just a bit confused by the lack of support at the back. When she sits down she looks okay from the front, but then you realise that her back legs aren’t quite in the right place. When she walks she’s very unsteady and sort of staggers a lot. She’s also taken to sitting in quite random places, locations where’s she’s never sat before, probably when she gets tired walking. I only just missed treading on her when I got up this morning, as she’d wrapped herself in my fleece on the floor; it was simply luck that prevented me from stepping on her as I didn’t notice she was there until I went back into the bedroom a few minutes later. Poor Penny.
Still, she did manage to embarrass me at the vets. After my explaining, at great length, in a miserable and pathetic voice, about how Penny had stopped eating, the vet went and got a bowl of food for her. Doing her best “I’ve a cruel and heartless master who hates all animals and starves me purely for his own pleasure and entertainment” impression, Penny proceeded to eat all the food offered to her and then have a go at the plastic bowl too, with more energy than I’ve seen her do anything for years. Seriously, if she was playing the part of starving cat in a movie, she’d be up for an Oscar. I’m probably being secretly tailed by the RSPCA now, in the hope of catching me carrying out some sort of heinous crime against all animal-kind. I ended buying six tins of this über expensive cat food from the vet, which Penny has shown, at best, a luke-warm appreciation of ever since returning home. However, she’s eating more now and is more ‘with it’ than she was before too; I have to heat her food up a bit in the microwave first, which seems to make quite bit difference to her enjoyment of it.
Right now I’m listening to “Rock Me In (Dub)” by the Thompson All Stars.
Penny isn’t well. She’s been eating less and less over the last week or so and tonight didn’t even finishing her dinner. Even the horrible, meaty cat foot that I give her (which she normally scoffs), along with her yummy vegan biscuits (which she begrudgingly eats, mostly as a favour to me I think), was hardly touched. She also wouldn’t eat the treats I tried to tempt her with. Over the past week she’s lost a lot of weight and has become less and less active. She doesn’t seem in pain and can jump up on the bed or futon if she wants to. It’s just that doing anything appears to be too much of an effort for her at the moment.
No one knows Penny’s exact age, but Cactus World’s best archaeologists and historians have researched all the available data and come to the conclusion that she’s about 18, which is pretty old for a cat. I’m going to take her to see our top vet tomorrow, but the general feeling on the streets of Cactus World is that its first citizen may not been returning home again. The weather outside may be improving, but a grey, damp drizzle has mentally enveloped the population, as it struggles with its feelings of helplessness and despair. Like myself, everyone is having difficulty contemplating any sort of future, should the worst happen. Penny is one of the defining features of Cactus World and has touched every citizen’s heart, providing unconditional love, affection and spiritual guidance for all, since she first arrived after my mum died three years ago. I think it might soon be time for them to be together again.
All in all, this is turning into one really, really crap week.
Right now I’m listening to “5 Years” by the Outcasts.
Cactus World is in shock today, with the news that one of my dinner plates has broken. A set of four, these have been with me for around ten years and were hand-made by some peasants in South America somewhere; (I’m sure they were fair-trade though, so probably middle-class peasants).
I discovered the plate myself, drying in the plate rack, with a chunk of one side broken off. (I’m sorry for being so explicit, but I can’t think of a gentler way to describe it.) Despite attempts at the scene to push the broken bit back into place, it was clear that the damage was permanent and the plate had been rendered entirely useless. The whereabouts of the broken plate is not presently known, but unsubstantiated reports from the scene suggest it was quickly placed in a blue carrier back, destined for the communal bins outside Cactus World, at the front of the car park.
Although the loss of the plate is not expected to cause significant, civic disturbances, the population has been warned that it may need to get accustomed to washing-up a bit more often, as there will only be three dinner-plates available in future.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for this cowardly act, although a number of rumours have been flying around, but a recurring theme is that one of the Star Trek mugs (which themselves have suffered two breakages over the past few years) was badly placed in the rack and fell on the plate. However, others have rejected this hypothesis, pointing out there’s no way the mug would have been heavy enough to break the plate in that way. One outlandish theory is that the local chemist sneaked across the border into Cactus World and broke the plate deliberately, before sneaking out again. Certainly, there’s a strong indication that he recently suggested that the population wouldn’t be so fat if it used smaller plates for meals. From what I’ve heard though, the authorities are not presently pursuing this line of enquiry. It may turn out that the plate was simply old. It was made from some sort of earthenware rather than pottery and as a result of this probably had a finite shelf-life. If this turns out to be the case, then this has serious implications for Cactus World, since the remaining three plates are all the same age.
Some people have been saying quite openly that I should just forget about these old plates and go to Ikea and buy some nice, new, colourful ones. Personally, I find this sort of thing really quite unacceptable, although what I’ll do if any of the others get broken I don’t know. It’s certainly the sort of nightmare scenario that I dread; a bit like the idea of a huge meteorite hitting the Earth, or nuclear war. I’m just relieved that Penny doesn’t seem to have been unduly affected by all this.
A number of pictures taken by bystanders that claim to be of the broken plate, have started to surface on the Internet. I wasn’t going to reproduce any of these here, but I think this one does seem to be authentic and at the moment I really feel I want to put it here. I’m sorry if this image upsets anyone.
Dating back to the time when I had some money, a partner and a life, the plates have become a focus for many of the population, who look on them as a tangible and physical connection with the past and Cactus World’s rich history. Others however, claim that they reflect Cactus World’s preoccupation with its glorious past and prevent it from moving forward; they describe the recent surfacing and playing of a number of Bert Kaempfert and James Last LPs, as other examples of this lack of vision and any sort of forward-looking policies.
Regardless of the longer-term implications, there is a very real sense of sadness in Cactus World at present. Dinner Plate, R.I.P.
In other news, I cleared out a cupboard today and discovered some instructions for a coffee-making machine that I don’t own and a sealed bag of coffee beans from 1990. Unfortunately, the instructions for the bread-making machine, which is what I started out looking for (before getting waylaid by the cupboard), have failed to materialise. (The coffee beans can best be described as “brittle” and have been disposed of.)
Right now I’m listening to “Dancing in the Dark” by Bert Kaempfert and His Orchestra.
I bought myself a new mouse and keyboard for my computer this afternoon; a Logitech MK320. It has now replaced the Microsoft Comfort 5000 I had been using. The latter’s keyboard was nice to use, but the mouse was pants. I don’t think it’s even two years old and it’s basically worn out; the rubbery bit around it is a mess and the scroll-wheel has totally fallen to bits and hasn’t worked for ages. It was really expensive too, around £60 I think. The new one was under £18. Not only that, but it ate batteries at an embarrassingly decadent and ostentatious rate; I felt like I was running a full-time battery recharging operation. Its outrageous energy consumption has probably done more to damage the planet’s climate and biodiversity than all the illegal loggers in the Amazon Jungle put together. Every time I moved it I’m sure the lights in my flat dimmed just a bit.
I cannot begin to describe the sad level of pleasure I’m currently experiencing, from having a mouse with a scroll-wheel that works properly. I keep looking for really long web pages, just so I can scroll up and down them. And another thing, since I uninstalled all the ‘special’ software the Microsoft mouse and keyboard insisted I use, nothing has crashed. Everything has worked perfectly for hours. If anyone out there knows a woman like the MK320, I’d like to meet her.
Penny also prefers the new keyboard and mouse too as they’re smaller than their predecessors, which leaves more room for her to sit on the table with me when I’m using the computer.
Right now I’m listening to Cerberus” by Scarlet’s Well”.
It’s a New Year! Hurray! Penny decided to help herself to the tea from my mug this morning, but I then forgot she had and went and made myself a new cup without cleaning it first. Then she was sick on the lounge carpet. (I’m not sure what this says about our relative hygiene levels.) Over Christmas she’s also developed an almost obsessive need to sit right next to me when I’m trying to work on the computer, sitting on the mouse and occasionally wondering around on the table and stamping all over the keyboard; I think she’s trying to tell me something. I hope there’s not some sort of “Rise of the Planet of the Cats” kind of thing going on. The bulb in my desk lamp has just stopped working too. Still, on the plus side it’s warm enough not to have to have the heating on at home. Welcome to 2012.
Right now I’m listening to “Boys of Summer” by Klubbheads.
Today was really hot and lovely and sunny outside, so I spent it all inside, trying to write a funding application. Just to make me feel extra cosy, a big lorry parked right outside the window next to my desk, which meant I had to put a desk lamp on as it was so dark; which is a bit ironic since it was probably the brightest September day in the history of the world, ever.
Despite being plunged into near darkness, I finished about 95% of the application. So I thought I’d go home and clear my head a bit, before re-reading it, tidying up any bits I wasn’t happy with and e-mailing it in tonight.
So I get home and find I’ve left the relevant file on my computer at work; swear a bit; go back to the office; pick up the hard drive with the file on it; get caught up in the rush hour; nearly run over a fucking cyclist weaving through the traffic, who has no understanding of the general give way to traffic on your right rule and then has the nerve to provide me with a gesture that should be pixellated before the watershed; get home again; get grief from Penny for being late feeding her; open the file to finish the application; find the file has become corrupted; swear some more; spend ages trying to open it, rename it, even delete it, but all to no avail; decide to retype it all from the draft version I’ve got a paper copy of; go to my e-mail to get the blank application form; find my e-mail programme (the entirely usless Thunderbird) has (yet again) fucked up and lost all my e-mails; swear even more; find the same e-mail programme has also managed not to put the attachment in the attachments folder where all attachments get put, (it must be related to the cyclist as it can’t follow basic instructions) so I can’t get it from there either; swear even more using worse words; realise I can’t get at the file that I need to get my e-mail working again as it’s on the server at work in the office (and I’m not going back there again today); realise that the closing date for the application is tomorrow afternoon and I have to leave home at 7:00am tomorrow to deliver a training course 100 miles away, so have no time to do anything about any of this; so will have to throw myself at the mercy of the funder and hope it will accept a late application on Monday, assuming I can sort out the problem then.
This has basically sent me insane. Oh, and if anyone is interested, the application is for funding to provide activities for people with mental distress; if it’s successful I’ll be right at the front of the queue…
Right now I’m listening to “Harvest Home by Big Country.
We don’t have forever on this Earth. Even if we don’t manage to wreck it totally in the next few years, most of us only have a finite amount of time here. Today I’m dealing with the guilt of having squandered 89 minutes of mine, watching possibly the worst film I’ve ever seen, Premier Désirs. This 1983 film from France is wrong on so, so many levels. In fact it’s probably wrong on every level. It was directed by David Hamilton, the famous photographer best known for his arty child porn; (sorry, I meant to say his classic studies of beautiful young women); not to be confused with DJ “Diddy” David Hamilton. So why is it so bad? Well…
It’s filmed in a stupid 1.66:1 aspect ratio. If you’re going to try to do widescreen, don’t piss about with “fat academy ratio”. It’s not funny and it’s not clever; it’s just stupid.
It’s got mono sound and it’s full of crackles and hisses. Clearly a film that claims to be so big on photogenics has conveniently forgotten about what it sounds like. I personally don’t enjoy listening to anything with a bowl of Rice Krispies and box of snakes attached to my head.
It’s dubbed into English. No French soundtrack or English subtitles were available on my DVD. Dubbing is the spawn of the Devil.
Now I could forgive its technical limitations if it actually had a good story, but sadly the story makes no sense at all. Trust me, it’s abysmal, inconsistent, stupid, unrealistic, nonsensical, irritating and encapsulates everything that’s bad and old-fashioned about France. It’s the sort of story only those who are entirely and utterly isolated from need, could ever hope to relate to. Every character is a caricature and nearly every scene is ridiculous, with the final big scene a horrifyingly tasteless one. It’s not so much it’s full of plot holes, it’s more that it’s all hole and no plot. I could feel myself dying just a little inside, second by second. It brings a whole new meaning to the film genera of torture porn!
I came in from the corner shop this afternoon and found Penny had decided to be sick on the carpet, and this film immediately popped into my head.
No, I didn’t like it very much.
Right now I’m listening to a live version of “This is Not a Love Song” by Public Image Limited.
You read about this sort of stuff on the Internet or see it on the TV, but you never think it will actually happen ‘here’. But it does. The last week has seen a pandemic sweep across Cactus Word, one that had infected every single one of its inhabitants with a terrible illness that even now, Cactus World’s best scientists and researchers have failed to identify, (because they’ve all been sick too silly). So for clarity, let’s just called it Skanking Flue, as it’s become known ‘on the streets’. It has what can only be described as ‘mild(ish), cold like symptoms’, but does in fact feels 1,000 times more intense to those suffering its effects. And let me point out right here, right now, that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the common cold, seasonal flu, or Man Flu, or any of those things. The resemblance is entirely superficial. However, the good news is that I feel as if I’m starting on the long road to recovery, but it was touch and go there for a while.
It’s strange how just one thing can virtually destroy a civilised society. Let me give an example. As a result of the pandemic there were huge food shortages in Cactus World. Supplies of rice, tofu, onions and garlic, along with most other foods, were entirely depleted within days; whilst the discovery of an almost full packet of pasta caused what I can only describe as a near riot in my kitchen, as I greedily grabbed it from the cupboard shelf, spilling much of its contents onto the floor, much to Penny’s disgust. What can I say? Starvation drives people to this sort of behaviour and I was desperate. International travel was banned too and I was forced to work from home for two days, to save myself the gruelling, long-distance trek into the office.
Last week, just prior the arrival of the pandemic, I went to not one, not two, but three ska/punk/reggae gigs. (And I’d like to point out that going to these and the sudden and mysterious arrival of Skanking Flue in Cactus World are entirely unrelated.) The first saw the truly wonderful Skints supporting the rather excellent Bedouin Soundclash at the Camden Koko (capacity 1410); whilst the following day saw the rather excellent Bedouin Soundclash supporting the truly wonderful Skints at Nambucca on the Holloway Road (capacity a somewhat overstated 300; I doubt the room with the music in it can take any more than 100). The third gig saw the even more awesome Dirty Revolution (which released 2010’s best album “Before the Fire” that you should go buy now) supporting the wondrous Slackers at the Islington Academy (capacity 800). Whatever your taste in music, it has to be said that bands like this are nearly always great live and thus worth going to see, even if you’ve never heard of them before. Comparing this sort of thing with the almost universally dreadful dirge that is modern indie rock and chart R&B, brings to mind a Borg Cube and a dead fruit fly.
In a not unrelated way, I have also been blessed by the availability on YouTube, of a brief shot of me attempting to dance at the recent King Blues gig at Koko. (It’s all just a bit too much like trying to maneuver an oil tanker for my liking.) Despite every gig I go to now seemingly being filmed by someone, somewhere, I rarely manage to see myself, as despite a claimed height of 6 feet and 1 inch, I’m always surrounded by people who are even taller than me. (As an aside to this, for a few seconds I thought my luck had changed at this gig, when I felt someone grab my hand. Sadly it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, as in the crowd she thought she’d got hold of her boyfriend’s hand. Oh well, back to reality.) Anyway, YouTube. I was, I have to say, rather disappointed to see not the suave, sophisticated dance-floor guru that I imagine myself to be, (the guy “women want to be with and men want to be” kind of person); the sort of cool dude who can combine the best of White indie/punk moves with the cool of Caribbean reggae and ska rhythms, in an entirely convincing and respectful way. Instead I got to see a rather bald, fat bloke in a black t-shirt being flung across the most pit and trying not to fall over, in an entirely undignified and dad-dancing way by, a person or persons unknown. Go check it out around the 2:05 mark.
Finally, my telly has been fixed! Well done Samsung. It can’t apparently make reliable TVs, but it’s great at getting them fixed when they do break down; I guess it gets a lot of practice.
Right now I’m listening to “Lonely Man of Spandau” by the Angelic Upstarts.
Right about now I’m wishing I owned a gas mask. Why? The Mother in Law’s Tongue on the window sill has decided to flower. This common indoor plant, hardy and innocuous enough, which we’re all used to seeing in offices and receptions areas etc, hides a dark secret within its soul. When the sun goes down, its flowers release a scent of hypnotic power. It draws all towards its sweet nectar, man and beast alike, as the heavy perfume overcomes all inhibitions, rational thought and self-determination, sending those who seek its wisdom in a sleep that lasts 1,000 years zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………
Well okay that’s not all entirely true. But it does however have a seriously powerful smell at night that quite frankly would give any air fresheners silly enough to challenge it a good slap. My entire flat stinks of it at the moment. It’s not that it’s got a bad smell or anything, but it does feel like I’ve got a can of Tesco Value air freshener and sprayed it directly up my nose. It’s serious quite overpowering and I am just a little worried that if I go to sleep I really will not wake up for 100 years, a bit like Sleeping Beauty; (although the similarity probably ends around about there). It’s also making my throat and nose feel weird. Penny’s in an odd mood tonight too; personally I think she’s been sniffing it a bit too much.
And here is a photo of the beast. Sorry about the slightly weird look of it, but I had to take it by hacking into a US spy satellite and borrowing its camera for a few minutes, as there’s no way I’m going to risk getting close enough to it to use a normal camera.
You think I’m exaggerating things? Ha! You have no idea what I’m dealing with here!
Anyway, I bet you’ve never even seen one with a flower before. It doesn’t happen very often. Then again, this is Cactus World, where nothing is ever quite like it seems; and, after all, I am the horticultural equivalent of Superman. (Please ignore all the rubbish you might have heard about these plants needing to be neglected to flower; that’s just rumours put about by jealous people who can’t manage the magic I can. In fact, you virtually have to agree to marry one before it will even consider flowering; and yes, that’s a bit of an awkward issue that I’m going to have to deal with later.)
Right now I’m listening to “buried alive” by Visqueen.