Tag Archives: life


We have two cats that live with us. We homed them from our local Cats Protection rescue centre, like all the moggies we’ve had before. The current pair, Sophie and Penny, also affectionately known as Charlie and Pingle, have been with us since Easter 2007. They came as a set, even though they are not related as far as we can tell. Sophie seemed to be the dominant one, always on the lookout for a vacant lap, howling for attention and so on. Penny was quiet, a bit introverted, and would accept a cuddle, but only on her terms. Over the years, though, it’s become obvious that Penny is the eldest, and therefore was Top Cat. Penny frequently put Sophie in her place, usually with a paw round the ear. Penny also came out of her shell, and turned out to be an adorable, cuddly moggy who loved to be nearby keeping an eye on what you were doing.

Our previous homings had been fairly poorly, and didn’t live long with us before they were called to the Great Cat Flap In The Sky. Penny and Sophie are pretty healthy. Well, Penny is actually quite a bit older than Sophie—we’ll never know exactly how old—and she’s now really showing her age.

We noticed things weren’t quite right when her poop wasn’t as solid as it ought to be. We also noticed she seemed confused and unable to march confidently about the place as she had done of old. We took her to the vet, who kept her in for blood tests and treatment. Everything seemed to check out fairly well, apart from being a bit anaemic and dehydrated. Penny got a course of antibiotics, but was otherwise deemed fit. Sophie didn’t like the way Penny ponged of vets, hissing and growling at her. That earned Sophie a black mark from the staff, that’s for sure.

We’ve worked out Penny has colitis, which means she’s not able to absorb all the moisture from the regular cat food (which is, frankly, mostly water anyway). This was why her poop was so bad. The antibiotics also gave her some incredible flatulence, resulting in some remarkable noises and equally remarkable fragrances from such a relatively small cat! Explosive puss poop and pongs! Not helping was Penny’s inability to point her backside in the right direction when in her litter tray. I have become resigned to clearing up spillages when I get up of a morning. At least it’s a laminate floor around her tray!

I checked on the internetz, and worked out what we might be able to do about Pingle’s poorly tummy. I checked with the vet to make sure they agreed with the diagnosis and recommended treatments. Penny has now been put on a special diet of biscuits which contain turkey and rice. Sophie, meanwhile, is still on the same old cat food diet, and it’s quite a job preventing Penny from piling her nose into Sophie’s bowl at feeding time!

It’s been a couple of weeks now, and things are beginning to improve. Penny is putting on a bit of weight again, and is more or less back to her old self again. The poop is improving slightly, wich makes it less of a chore to tidy up. Sadly, one thing isn’t getting better, and that’s her eyesight.

Penny seems to have lost most of her vision. She seems to be aware of contrasts, but she’s very wary when approaching things like steps, or changes in colour on the floor. An exploratory paw comes out and feels about before taking the next step. She’ll merrily blunder into legs, or Sophie—which is rewarded with a hiss and a growl—but she knows the local area well enough that she can find her way about fairly well. She can still hop over the boundary fence into our neighbour’s garden. She can hop up on to the window sill—though she will occasionally misstep and take a tumble to the floor. More importantly, she knows exactly where her food bowl lives.

We are slowly becoming accustomed to caring for a geriatric puss. Penny-puss must be well into her teens now. She’s still adorable, and still loves a cuddle, but we must accept the fact things may never be the way they were when that timid little tabby came into our lives. Eventually, her spring will run down. We’re not sure whether to find a replacement, since Sophie may not agree, or whether to just put up with Sophie alone until it’s her turn to leave us. It’s been a blast having two feline friends around the place, but I think I’d be happier with just the one next time we look to home a cat.

A bit quiet

Hello. I am still here. I haven’t been anywhere particularly thrilling, or done anything massivley amazing. 

Even so, I have decided to get things moving with a local photo walk thing I’ve been mulling. I spread the word on Google+ and I have been blown away by the support. Okay, it’s not going to be dozens of people, but I am happy if we reach a manageable ten or so. 

I have been trying to learn to code HTML and CSS, with reasonable success. I’m not doing it because I enjoy it, more so I have a much better handle on what other tools I use for web design are trying to do. I would like to create a whole web site from scratch using the techniques I have been learning, but I don’t think that’s going to happen for a while. It’s too easy to fall back on the tried and tested software to do it for me.

Since my DSLR can record HD video, I have been learning more about how to get the best out of it. There’s plenty on the interwebz specifically aimed at the Canon EOS 7D, so I now have a pretty good idea what the machine is capable of, and what all the different buttons are supposed to do! I really want to make another short film, but I don’t have a good idea for a storyboard yet. 

So, while I haven’t been posting all and sundry here, I have actually been trying to improve my knowledge and understanding on various subjects. If there’s one thing I love, it’s being an autodidact.

Hanging around


2012 hasn’t started off terribly well at Snaptophobic Towers. I got a cold just before Christmas last year, which I shrugged off pretty quickly. The new year started with an upset stomach—not related to any excess on New Year’s Eve, I might add—and I have been knocked sideways by another heavy cold barely into the third week of the year. I hate being ill. 

Perhaps it’s a combination of these things, and the dull weather at the moment which is neither one thing or another, but I feel out of sorts. I feel in a kind of limbo. Hanging around.

As you know, I have been looking for full time work. Vacancies have been pretty thin on the ground in my area for a while, and I had more or less given up any prospect of firing my CV off into the void for the foreseeable future. This morning, though, two likely vacancies arrived in my email. I took a look, but decided it simply wasn’t worth my while even applying for them. 

What? Have I gone completely mad?

Well, no. Not really. I just had a dose of reality. Both were jobs for which I have the skill sets. Both were well-paid. Both were in a part of the county fairly difficult to get to from where I live. 

I have a mental block about travelling to that part of Kent known as Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. It is a lovely part of the county, but it is more than an hour’s drive from here, on single-carriageway A roads for the most part. I’m frankly getting too old for trekking across country to work eight or more hours, then trekking back again. 

What is the point in me even applying for such jobs? The descriptions were worded in such a way that it was clear they didn’t really want anyone of maturer years applying. They wanted younger, fresher people, or so it seemed to me. Why waste my bandwidth in applying when I won’t even get past the delete key of the agency’s in-box?

My confidence has taken a real knock in the past year or so, and I just can’t see the point in applying for jobs only to never hear from them again. It has happened so often now there seems no point in trying to carry on looking for jobs in my line of work. I have been here before, and I am unable to find work in any other sphere. Stuck in limbo. Again.

I am having no success in finding work in the model photography. I’m going to keep battering at that door until one of us gives. There are hints of some freelance design work, but currently it’s all ifs and maybes. They don’t pay the bills, but who knows? It may turn out differently in a while. 

Until I get over this funk, sort out the health problems and get a decent idea of what direction the rest of my life needs to take, I guess I’ll just have to contine hanging around.

Life? Don’t talk to me about life.


Life is like existing in an ocean, as flotsam and jetsam, at the mercy of currents and storms. Some people try to control their aimless drifting, but end up being battered about. Others are lucky and spend their lives in a quiet mill pond, away from most harm. Some drift into the company of good, some end in the company of ne’erdowells. I don’t think there’s any way of predicting how a life will turn out when you are always at the mercy of such powerful external agencies. All you can do is try to make the best of the hand you are dealt, and try to enjoy the ride.

I think I ought to start taking my own advice.

My First Oak Tree™


Some years ago, a forgetful squirrel buried an acorn in a patch of soil near our back door. At first, I thought it was just a weed, and was about to pull it out when I realised it was actually an oak sapling. Just a spindly little thing, with two huge oak leaves weighing it down, but a mighty oak in the making nevertheless.

He—for it is a male, as far as I am concerned—has grown in stature. He doesn’t get watered, but does get a dose of mulch from time to time. I am convinced he has put on nearly a metre in height just this year alone. I guess we can put that down to the early warm spring, soggy summer, and another dose of mulch.

We think he’s strong enough now that we can transplant him into the woodland behind us. He obviously can’t remain so close to the house, though it may be many decades before he becomes a nuisance. Still, once he’s properly dormant in the dead of winter, we’ll shift him somewhere more commodious.

I’d like to think I will be able to go and visit as the years roll by, but I doubt I will recognise My First Oak Tree™ after a while. He surely won’t remember me. Who knows? Perhaps one day a forgetful squirrel will lose one of my tree’s acorns in someone else’s garden.

Where next?


I made the mistake of going self-employed in my chosen profession a decade ago now. For the first few years, I made an adequate living. Things looked fairly rosy. Then the work dried up, I couldn’t seem to get new business that made ends meet, and I ended up going into paid work again. Stupidly, when that job made me redundant, I didn’t sign on as unemployed but rather chose to relaunch the freelancing designer/jobbing artworker career.

That was a mistake. I should have gone on the dole until something else came up. Instead, I’ve struggled to make ends meet, relying on Best Beloved to cover the increasing gaps in income. Thankfully, he’s retired on a reasonable pension, so we can afford groceries and utility bills, and the occasional luxury item. But that’s not the way it should be. We still find we’re liquidating assets and downsizing in order to make ends meet.

I’ve made a little money over the past few years, here and there, odd regular jobs, a stint at a small company in south London, but that’s all gone now. I found my creative spark had been snuffed out by increasingly inept and recalcitrant clients who always seemed to know my job better than me. I tried, in vain, to find other gainful employment, outside the creative industries. I spent a month as a temporary worker in a warehouse, and vowed never to go back unless there was absolutely no other option left on this planet.

With some former colleagues, I tried to launch a new business, but that barely got off the starting line. Literally. Despite the best efforts, our venture was let down by various parties, and so it is withering on the vine. I suspect it won’t make it beyond the summer before it’s wound up. A shame, because it seemed like a surefire money-making scheme at the time.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying for over a year now to find a new job. Unable to, or unqualified for, almost everything else, I have fallen back on “what I know”. I have lost track of how many applications have been submitted, but in all that time I have had one interview (failed, apparently, because I didn’t seem keen enough at the interview…) and two rejection emails, one of which was just yesterday.

It appears I am now, to put it simply, not the right candidate for the only job I can actually do. I’m either not qualified (20 years’ experience in the business don’t mean anything compared to a paper qualification, apparently), or it seems I’m deemed too old (being only a few years shy of my half century). To where do I turn now? 

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t ask for much in life. I just want to be solvent, be able to pay the bills, and have a bit left over for the nicer things in life. I don’t need a lot, really, to be happy. 

Don’t think I haven’t considered alternatives, either. Which, for example, among my various hobbies and pastimes could reasonably give me an income? I can construct and decorate models, but no-one gets rich doing that, and there are plenty better skilled at it than me. I can take a decent photograph, but if there ever was a cut-throat business photography since the dawn of inexpensive DSLRs is it.

So, some combination of those things? Well, I am good at the model photography, if I do say so myself. I put together a portfolio booklet last year, and posted it with a covering letter to various model railway magazine editors and publishers. I had one response, but no further contact. Being the reticent kind, I haven’t followed up as I should have, so another golden opportunity evaporated. 

I am still here on Square One. 

I simply don’t want to continue flogging the dead horse of the creative and design work. Yes, it’s what I know best, but I really have no wish to continue with it. It bores me, clients piss me off, and no-one pays me on time when I do get work. It’s a thoroughly dispiriting situation to be in, and I don’t really know where to go next.

I know you’re supposed to go and get the work. I know you are supposed to chase the opportunities, jump at every chance, never let a good opportunity pass. Sadly, I am so disillusioned with the whole thing I simply don’t want to any more. Effort expended is effort wasted, at least in my experience. Better to just sit here and watch the world pass me by, rather than struggle on doing something which isn’t really appreciated when it’s done.

My apologies for this most depressing post. It helps to get it out my system, though. Looking back, I managed to miss most of the good opportunities that came my way, and now I find myself conked out, on life’s scrap heap.

Still, something might happen. It can’t go on like this for much longer. You never know what’s round the next bend in the road. It’s why I have adopted the motto “onwards and sideways”, because that’s just what life is like right now.

A Pain in the Neck

Cervical and lumbar pain, with a bit of thoracic for good measure. That’s the story of my back. It’s not a pleasant story, but at least I’m not completely debilitated by it. I am also not alone with it, by any means, with back pain being one of the most common medical complaints in the industrialised world.


My osteopath tells me that back problems are so common because we humans, clever as we think we are, have simply not evolved properly to walk upright yet. Effectively, we still have a spine that is intended for moving about using both sets of limbs most of the time. Yet, at some point about three or four million years ago, one of our ancestors decided that walking on their hind limbs most of the time was a clever thing to do.

Stupid hominid.

The human spinal column curves in mysterious ways, chiefly in order to facilitate bipedal locomotion. It’s that curious curving just above the pelvis that is the root cause of most back problems. You see, if all we did was mooch about the savannah picking wild fruit and scavenging a bit of meat here and there — oh, and scampering up trees to escape predators — we probably wouldn’t have the problems we have today. Equally, most of us now don’t have physical jobs that keep the muscles in condition, and so it’s painfully easy to do some mischief to our most important collection of bones. Even just getting out of bed can cause damage!

My problems are manifold. I’m quite tall for my generation and gender, so I tend to stoop. When I was at school I never found it easy to perform a forward roll in gym class, and it seems this may be due to my thoracic vertebrae being very reluctant to move. In fact, they’re almost flat — which would account for my gymnastic incapabilities! Stooping has been exacerbated by my professional life being spent either hunched over a drawing board, or more recently a keyboard. This has led to all kinds of muscular issues, with extra “scaffolding” being generated in my neck and shoulder muscles in order to hold my odd angle of posture. I’m also suffering from early onset osteoporosis…

About six weeks ago, I made the error of making a lengthy road trip on a hot day with the car window just open a crack. That draught across my neck set off a chain of muscular pain and anguish that is still with me now. It’s a proper pain in the neck, in every sense. The worst thing is I knew it was likely to occur, but I still kept the window open. The pain is disrupting my sleep pattern, there’s discomfort when I sit and watch TV, or just sit here at my desk trying to do something constructive. No amount of stretching exercises seems to alleviate it, and I fear it may be a sign of something worse. It nags and mithers at me, and sometimes gives me cause to wish I’d bothered to keep myself fitter when I was younger.

Not that I have suffered in silence. I’ve been attending an osteopath for some years now, though I’m told my patient file is not one of the largest in the establishment. Initially it was because I did something very silly to my lumbar spine. Now that’s been mostly mended, it seems it may have been triggered by the aforementioned scaffolding and stooping, transferring the required mobility to the lower back. So the treatment has moved slowly up my spine to where it’s now concentrating on the neck and shoulders. Physically, I’m a mess.

Still, visiting the osteopath for a monthly session of muscular manipulation helps enormously. I do recommend it for anyone, but I also recommend discussing it with your doctor to ensure it’s the right course of treatment. I am only a satisfied patient, and not a qualified health professional.