Banjo Baby Baboon

Getting aquainted

Way back in March 2012 I met @Kolo_Martin (for Kolo’s webpage – see the link on my BlogRoll) and learned of his bid to re-house as many Baboons as he can via special competitions.

Being a curious cat I Googled “Baboon” and found that they are primate with many of the characteristics of a cat e.g. curious, cheeky, climb trees, enjoy naps etc. So huMum contacted Kolo by DM and asked if we could provide a forever home for a Baboon. Much to our delight Kolo advised that a wee baby Baboon had been dispatched to Australia.

Everyday, excitedly, I checked our mailbox and last week he finally arrived!

Banjo Arrives at Number 31

Those pesky parcels that people from UK use are so difficult for a cat to open so I had to asked huMum for her assistance. “OMC he is so cute” I cried when I first spied Baby Banjo Baboon. Yes we have named him Banjo after the Australian poet Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson who is famous for such delights as Waltzing Matilda, The Man from Snowy River and Clancy of the Overflow.

I was a little over-friendly with Banjo on his first night in our home so he has taken up residence on our fridge but every day I greet him with “Morning Banjo” and in return he says “Ah! Ah! Ah!” and asks for another banana.

Thank you Kolo for giving us the chance to adopt Banjo – today we sent my weekly pocket-money to the CARE Baboon Sanctuary in South Africa.

Nap time, bye-bye for now!

Banjo’s home (until I stop the rough play)

Transfer of my Blog to WordPress

#ourWinnie taking Nanny Jessie for a ride on her horsey

Over the past week I’ve been gradually transferring my personal blog to WordPress. Unfortunately, the two Australian #NipClub tours to help save the endangered Bilby held earlier in 2012 could not be included (graphic overload!) but they still can be viewed (see the link in the BlogRoll on the right of this page).

Please let me know if you wish me to add your link to my BlogRoll and, in turn, I’d be delighted if you added my link to your Blog.

Also if you are looking for links important to twitter anipals just click here HERE.

I don’t promise to update this blog on a regular basis but I may be more inclined to share the daily joys of living with huMum in my forever home. It also will encourage her to get the dreaded camera out and snap pictures of me compromising poses.

Nap time, bye-bye for now!

The Gianormous Tom!

Big, scruffy and a WIMP!

One night last week, just as I’d settled for a wee nap with huMum, I heard a noise.  Head up, ears pricked, the hackles on the back of my neck already raised and my tail all floofed to triple its normal skinny size.  Somebody was in my courtyard garden!  In a tummy crouch I crawled into the living room so that my profile wouldn’t be seen through the big glass doors.  OMC he was huge; at least 21lbs of him! Ginger too and, I guess, a feral as his coat was all matted.  I zoomed at a million miles an hour back up the passage into the laundry and out my door.  I must have scared the sh*t out him as he took off into garage with me in hot pursuit.  We sped through the gap in the big door to the driveway. Then came the stand-off and the circling to see who had the biggest yowl.

Lights went on in huMum’s room and I imagined her running through the house as, in quick succession, the passage light then the living room light flashed on.  This made me brave so I pounced.  Yowls, howls and screams ensued!  “The tom” just shook me off like he would a pesky gnat; did I tell you he was gianormous?  All four legs akimbo I managed a strike to his nose as I sailed through the air.  Score ONE for Jessie! Dazed from my flight, I looked around.  He’d vanished! The front door opened and huMum arrived in her daggy fluoro-green flannelette pj’s and bed head (a sight that only should be viewed through sunglasses) and, to my chagrin, scooped me up into her protective arms.  I gave her the stiff paw treatment as I wanted to find “the tom” but she scurried back inside making unnecessary soothing noises.

Three hours later as dawn made its sleepy arrival I cautiously, tail down and pawtoeing, crept out to check the venue of the “great fight”.   Proudly I spotted speckles of blood on the path.  Eureka!!  I didn’t dream that my mighty claws had struck gold the previous night.  So I happily trotted back inside with tail held high like a flagpole to wake huMum with my good news.  Miaow, miaow MIAOOOOOOW hmm no reaction from the lump under the duvet.  I hopped up on our bed and tapped the nose sticking out and received a mumbled snort.  Tapped again and jumped quickly to other side of her head to evade tha hand which shot out to hit the place I’d previously been sitting.  Phase three of the daily “wake the huMum routine” was for me to take up the ‘staring position’ on her chest (which is perfectly flat as her boobs fall under her armpits when she’s on her back) and then purr directly in her face.  Result! I knew she’d only resist that for 5 minutes!

On our walk to the kitchen I told her all about the blood spots on the path and as she groggily slurped her first cup of coffee and I munched my Hills Prescription TD biscuits we pondered what to do if “the tom” returned.  I scratched my head in disappointment when huMum rejected my idea of burying a few land mines.  She reminded me that the neighbour’s brats often invade our space and she didn’t want to end up in jail for juvenile murder even though she agreed with me that their high-pitched screeches when riding their scooters up and down the driveway were worse than nails on a blackboard.

With no resolution to the problem we took up residence on the sofa and turned the TV on to watch the morning news.  Bored, I snuggle into huMum’s side and fell asleep dreaming of the featherweight championship belt being proudly draped over my back as I pranced around a boxing ring.

Day Two

At around 10:00pm the following night, I’d just hopped over the neighbour’s fence on my return journey to our garden when I sniffed the air?  He was back!  From deep within my chest I emitted a rumbling noise which, even to me, was frightening.  I had no idea I could make such a sound and created a diary note to myself to ponder it later.  I saw golden eyes flashing 5 yards away.  My rumble became a hiss and then a high-pitched yowl as fearlessly I moved towards “the tom”.  Huh?  Where did he go?  I was sure he’d been right in front of me just a second previously.  Shocked realisation dawned on me, “the tom” was a wimp and I’d scared him off. Strutting proudly inside I let huMum know just how lucky she was to have me to protect her and claimed my reward in scritches and supper.

Nap time, bye-bye for now!

Painting The House

Cream walls with a scattering of black fur is very “IN” at our house

I wasn’t aware my huMum had a mild disability when we met as she was able to do all the basic stuff like feed and brush me. It doesn’t worry me that when she is tired, she uses a walker or a stick because I get to ride on the walker’s seat and the stick provides me with hours of pleasure trying to move it from one room to another. Laborious chores like cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and mopping floors are just beyond huMum and she has a lovely lady called Vidanka visit once a week to help.

Vidanka was my friend from our first meeting, it was a mutual admiration society – she loved rubbing my tummy and I loved the treats she, unbeknownst to huMum, hid in her pocket for me! Over the years Vidanka and her family, huMum and I all became really close friends. Our house was only 7 years old but it really needed painting so Sam, Vidanka’s husband and a professional painter, agreed on a price with huMum and the work started the following week.

I wasn’t too sure that all these ladders, drapes over the furniture and floor were really such a good idea. OMC the smell of the paint was hideous, it permeated every hiding place I had in the house so I spent a lot of time on my fence steps. Each afternoon, as soon as Sam left, I’d be coaxed back into the house to play with huMum, have our dinner and watch TV or spend time on the computer. Nobody told me that the lovely cream paint on the wall was still wet. Oh dear I was in deep doo doo! My beautiful black coat was covered in cream paint and the walls were covered in my fur. You guessed it! At the time, I was in the middle of my shedding season!

Every day Sam arrived at 7:30am to fix another catastrophe! Sometimes it was blue paint, sometimes it was sage and always the walls were covered in my black fur. Sam and huMum took turns in fixing the walls and washing the paint off my coat. At no time did Sam ask huMum to banish me from the house. You see I had this gentle Yugoslavian wrapped around my wee paw! He was always anxious that I did not try to wash the paint off myself. I did enjoy the attention but I did not enjoy being washed!

Finally the house was completely painted with clean curtains and carpet! It looked so fresh and sparkling. The only real complaint I had was that huMum sent my mohair blankie to the dry cleaners. A pongy, smelly but very fluffy blankie was returned to me! It took me four weeks of hard work kneading and covering it with my scent to get it back to purrfection!

Nap time, bye-bye for now!

Five Horses

Jane, aged approx. 6 with Puddin the Poddy Lamb

On an Australian farm, because our paddocks are so big, horses are vital to the farm’s smooth running. Yes, I did have five horses but not all at once. I was a pesky little toddler and I constantly was asking my Dad if I could ride his stockhorse, Marianne. She was so big that I could walk under her tummy without having to bend over. I loved it when Dad and I rode her together; me wrapped snug in his strong arms.

Finally, just to shut me up, they bought me Bimbo, a tiny black Shetland pony with a vicious temper. He hated me especially when I made him go too fast. He would turn his head around and nip at my legs – boy it hurt. Whenever I walked behind him he would kick his back little legs at me. That Bimbo was a horrible nasty little pony didn’t put me off at all. I would dream that I was a famous rider winning prizes at the Melbourne Royal Agricultural Show.

Mum and Dad finally realised that I was serious about riding and they drove up to Melbourne, which is about 220 kilometres from where we lived, and found Tango. I was so excited when the truck finally arrived and he was led down the ramp. It was love at first sight. He was pure white with a long flowing tail and mane. His eyes were so big and so very brown. From then on it was just like that nursery rhyme about Mary and her little lamb but it was “everywhere that Jane went Tango would to follow”. We sold Bimbo soon after that.

I rode Tango to school each day and he would wait patiently for me to ride him home again. School was a little country cottage, which looked more like a shed. It was about 5 kilometres from our farm. There was only one teacher and 12 students ranging in age from 5 to 12 years. Mr. Binks, our teacher, was a tall skinny man with a lovely warm smile. He made sure that Tango had enough grass to eat and water to drink and that I put him in a shady spot in the summer when it was very hot.

Tango and I had to work hard too. We helped Dad round-up the sheep and bring them to the shed at shearing time at the beginning of summer. In the spring we would spend hours in the paddocks making sure that all the lambs were OK. If they were sick or their mums, the ewes, did not want to let them suckle for milk I would hop off Tango, pick up the lamb and put it over the front of my saddle and take it home for Mum to look after. Every lamb was precious to us because when they grew into sheep their wool was sold at market and that was how Mum and Dad had money to buy Jane more horses! I found out at a very early age that if I was good, worked hard and did all my chores I would be rewarded, not only, with lots of hugs and kisses from my Mum and Dad, but every so often they would buy me a special present.

Tango taught me to ride. He was a born Show pony even though he did not have a very good pedigree. The first Show (only a little local Show) we went to I was riding in jeans, we could not afford jodhpurs, but Tango could not have cared less what I wore. We rode into the Show ring and he curved his head down, picked up his little dainty hooves and fluffed out his tail. Yes we won the blue ribbon for best pony! Can you imagine how proud I was?

Mum and Dad got caught up in the excitement of riding. They knew nothing about horses or the finer points of equestrianism, but they went to the library and read heaps of books. They made friends with the “horsy” crowd and very quickly learned. It was now very serious. Every night when Tango and I got home from school we had to train. In the winter Dad would turn the lights of the tractor on so that I could see what I was doing. They made me ride without stirrups for what seemed like hours going around and around in a circle so that I would learn how to sit in the saddle properly. Then they would take the reins away from me so that I learnt how to use my knees to guide Tango in the right direction and make him walk or trot or canter with just the slightest pressure. Lochie, my Silky Terrier, was Tango’s best friend and he would keep us company. Either sitting patiently in the middle of the circle or, when Dad wasn’t watching, up on the saddle with me.

After just one year, Tango and I were winning all the prizes. I had ribbons on all the walls of my bedroom and Mum proudly displayed the Silver Cups we won in our front lounge room where the visitors always sat.

When I was eleven, we bought Goblin Gold. I called him Gobby and he was about 30 centimetres taller than Tango, who was now too small for me, but I still kept riding him for another year. Gobby was a beautiful chestnut colour and he just glowed in the sun. Now it was Tango, Gobby, Lochie and I and, when Buck, my pet kangaroo, was big enough, he too joined our merry crew. Can you imagine the spectacle as we all trooped off to visit the creek or the dam? Me riding one of the horses bareback with no reins, Lochie in my arms, the other horse following behind and Buck always hopping ahead – he loved to be in front and always won our pretend races. I was so happy that I would sing but very off-key.

Our entire family were now a very professional team at all the Shows. We had a proper horse float that we towed behind our old Holden. I had all the right clothes and my saddles (a small one for Tango and bigger one for Gobby) and bridles would glisten with oil. The other competitors dreaded our arrival, as they knew we would leave with all the blue ribbons.

At last, when I turned twelve, Mum and Dad, thought that I was ready for the big time and they entered me in the various competitions for both rider and horse at the Royal Melbourne. That was May and I had to wait until September! I would only be riding Gobby as Tango was now way too small for me. We trained every morning and every night. Gobby was put on a special diet of barley, oats and wheat so that his coat would be at its shiniest best.

Two weeks before the Show Mum, Dad and I went to Melbourne to visit my brother Hugh who was at boarding school and to pick up my new riding outfit. I was so chuffed with my new jodhpurs, long sleek riding jacket and knee-high black shiny boots, that I didn’t mind having to watch Hugh play cricket. We did not get home from Melbourne until just before midnight. I was asleep on the back seat of the car so they didn’t wake me; Dad just lifted me up and carried me to bed and Lochie and Butterball soon joined me.

The next morning instead of Dad waking me up at the usual time of 5:00am it was Mum. She sat me on her knee and told me that she had some very sad news for me. When we were in Melbourne, Gobby had escaped from his paddock and could not get back in. He was very hungry because he could not get to his special mixture. Not knowing that the tree near his paddock was poisonous he ate its leaves. By the time Dad found him at midnight there was nothing they could do for my darling horse. Dad phoned the Vet who drove out and gave Gobby an injection that put him to sleep and took the pain away. Yes, Gobby died and little part of me died with him. I cried and cried for days and days. That is life when you live on a farm, the animals you love so very much are, eventually, either sold or go to heaven.

We buried Gobby on top of the only hill on our farm so that he would always be able to look down at us. Dad helped me make a cross for his grave and Mum, Dad, Tango, Lochie, Buck, Butterball and I prayed for him.

I can hear you saying that is only three horses Jane, you told me that you had five! Well within a few months Golden Glory arrived. She too was a chestnut – tall beautiful and proud but she could not replace Gobby in my heart. I no longer wanted to ride the Show circuit but eventually I did and gradually Goldie and I became friends.

At one of the Shows at the back of the area where all the cars and horse floats were parked, I met an old racing horse. He was a horse, not a pony; I couldn’t even reach his saddle! His name was Sputnik and I called him Spooty. His owners could no longer afford to feed him so I pleaded with Mum and Dad to take him home with us. So now there was Bimbo, Tango, Gobby, Goldie and Spooty.

Just a few short months after that Dad and Mum sold the farm. Goldie and Spooty were taken to Melbourne and sold. Dad promised me that they had both gone to families with lots of children who would love them both to bits. I never did get to ride at the Royal Melbourne.

Tango died when I was twenty-one. He too was twenty-one, which is so very old for a horse but he was still the prettiest white pony in the district. Until then, every time I visited my old home I went to see him. After a few years he no longer recognised me but by that time I was old enough to understand and not to be sad.

Butterball

Awe! She is just like Butterball

I first met Butterball at about 11:00pm on a winter’s night – I had just turned nine – but before I tell you about that wonderful night I have to set the scene.

Butterball’s mum was a tabby cat we called “Ugly” she was the offspring of one of the many feral cat families on the farm. We never saw these cats in daylight, but knew they were around because we could hear their noisy, furious fights at night. Ugly was also born in the winter. Her mother was not silly because she nested under the house just near the base of the kitchen stove, which, because it was alight 24 hours of the day, was lovely and warm.

I found the kittens when I was hiding from Mum under the house. You guessed it – once again I was in her bad books. I think it was the time that I decided that the wood I had chopped for the stove was dirty so I had hosed it down. Wrong move! Now it was too wet to be used! I heard the miaowing of the kittens and went to investigate. There were five little bundles of fluff; so tiny that their eyes were not even open. I spent a good part of the next week under the house with the kittens, plotting on how I could convince Mum and Dad that I had to have a kitten. I was so good all that week. Did all my chores without being asked and was ever so polite. They knew I was up to something because this “angel” in the house was not their daughter. Eventually one night, when Mum was reading to me, I got up enough nerve to tell her about the kittens and ask if I could have one. She did not give me an answer right away, just said “maybe”. That was enough for me because I knew her maybe meant yes!

Dad was a pushover; I had him wrapped around my little finger and he could never say no to me. However, he did insist that, if I was to have a kitten, it must be a boy because he did not want to have to deal with a litter of new kittens every 6 months. I said OK and we both crawled under the house to get the kittens so that we could choose a Tom. There was not all that much space under our house so can you imagine my Dad, who was 182cm crawling behind me. There was a whole lot of cursing as he kept on hitting his head on the floorboards above. I learnt some new words that day! When we got the kittens outside Dad chose Ugly for me and gave him to me to take inside.

You may be asking why I chose the name “Ugly”. It’s pretty simple he was Ugly! He had a very dark grey coat covered in orange splodges and his face was bright orange. He was so Ugly he was beautiful.

Ugly never really belonged to me though. He was too wild but he did come at meal times when I called him and occasionally he would sleep on my bed and allow me to pet him, but cuddle him – never! I had so many scratches on me at one stage I looked like I had been picking blackberries for a week.

As you will have already surmised about six months after he was born we realised that Dad was not very good at picking the sex of cats. Yes he was a she and a very pregnant she! I was wrapped! More kittens!

Ugly became gentler as motherhood got closer. I could now pick her up and my bed became her bed. She was still only a kitten herself and here she was about to give birth to more kittens.

At last the big night arrived. I thought it was strange that all afternoon and evening Ugly had been following me around. If I went to the wood heap to chop more wood then she was there, sitting on a log and occasionally miaowing at me. I went to bed at my normal time in winter (about 8.00 pm) and Ugly soon joined me. She went around and around in circles but just didn’t seem to be able to get comfortable. She had a really fat tummy by this time and I thought that was the reason. Eventually when I let her get under the blankets with me she settled and we both went to sleep.

Much, much later I was awoken by the sound of tiny little mews. The first kitten had arrived. We didn’t have electricity in those days but I had a torch, which I quickly turned on, and there lying beside me was a baby kitten. Ugly was licking it clean and purring like a steam engine.

I screamed out in delight, “Mummy I’ve got a kitten.” There was a lot of muttering from the room next door where Mum and Dad slept and then the reply, “That’s nice darling, now go back to sleep.” “But Mummy it’s got white paws.” Silence. “Mummy, Ugly is having another kitten!” At last I got a reaction. I could hear Mum go to the linen press and to the storage cupboard. She opened my door and bought in an old suitcase and some tatty towels that we were going to make into rags. I helped Mum line the suitcase and we lifted Ugly and her kitten into it. I begged Mum to leave the suitcase in my room and she agreed as long as I promised to go straight back to sleep!

Sleep, there is no way I could go back to sleep! As soon as Mum was out of the room, Ugly grabbed the kitten in her mouth and jumped back on the bed and straight under the blankets. Who was I to argue with a cat that had made up her mind that her kittens were going to be born in my bed!

The kittens arrived at regular intervals of about half an hour apart. I kept Mum and Dad fully abreast of what was happening much to their annoyance. “This one’s a tabby!” “We have another black and white kitten!” “Oh a pretty little ginger one with a white face!”

The fifth and last kitten to arrive was Butterball. I fell in love. She was the colour of butter and her fur was so much longer than that of her brothers and sisters. We were all so tired by this time that Ugly, her five kittens and I fell into exhausted sleep.

Naturally, I awoke with the birds the next morning and threw back my blankets. It was just so beautiful. There were Ugly and her five little babies. They were only the size of matchboxes, did not have real ears and their eyes were closed tight. I was so frightened that they might have suffocated having been under the blankets with me all night but they were all wiggling and madly suckling on Ugly’s breasts.

That morning at breakfast Dad sat me down with a very serious look on his face and said, “Jane you know we can’t keep all the kittens don’t you? I want you to choose just one and I will take the others away before you and Ugly get too attached to them.” My heart was breaking but I knew he was right. I held his hand and we both went back to my room. Ugly looked up and miaowed loudly. It was as though she knew what was about to happen. I petted her and told her to be brave but I had tears trickling down my face. Naturally, I chose Butterball and Dad took the other kittens away. To this day I have never asked where he took them. Mum insisted that Ugly and Butterball move to the suitcase straight away so that she could take my sheets away to be washed. I hadn’t even noticed that they were dirty! Ugly accepted this arrangement but wasn’t too keen when I locked them both in the case and tried to take them to school with me. I finally agreed not to take them when Mum promised me that she would watch over them for me. Every afternoon when I got home I eagerly ran to my bedroom and the suitcase to make sure that all was OK.

Over the next weeks I watched with delight as Butterball progressed from a skinny little sausage into a cute kitten. Pointy ears and the biggest yellow/brown eyes. Mum was also in love and she gave me treats for Ugly (like the cream and titbits of fresh meat) so that she would be able to give all the right nutrients to Butterball in her milk.

As soon as Butterball was weaned Mum and I drove, in the old Holden, to town and visited the Vet. Neither of us trusted Dad’s judgement with regard to if Butterball was a boy or a girl. Mum gave a huge sigh when the Vet told us that she was a girl because she knew that she would have to explain to me that Butterball had to stay overnight with the Vet and have a small operation so that she would not have kittens. Funnily enough this was OK by me just as long as Butterball wasn’t going to be too sore. The Vet, a kindly roly-poly man called Dr. Jones, assured me that she would be asleep when he operated and that within a few days would be back to her playful self.

The next day we picked up this very sleepy and sore little ball of yellow fluff. Dr. Jones was correct in his prediction as within two days she was again chasing her tail and playing hide and seek with me and then jumping out and pouncing on my foot as I walked past her hiding spot. She was very much a house cat and only went outside to go to the toilet and then rushed back to miaow at the door until we let her in.

Soon after this Ugly left and I never saw her again. She returned to the feral cat families but, occasionally, I was sure I heard her caterwauling at night. Because Butterball and I had each other for company we didn’t miss her all that much.

Besides that we were soon to be joined by another bundle of joy – Lochie, but that is another story for another day.

Lochiel

Awe! He is just like Lochie

You will remember that at the conclusion of my story about Butterball I teased you by saying, “we were soon to be joined by another bundle of joy – Lochie” – well this is Lochie’s story!

From the time I could walk the first thing I did every morning was ask my Mum if I could “go say morning to the dogs”. She would help me out of my high chair and off I would toddle across the farm paddock to the shearing shed where our sheep dogs had their home. We had three Kelpie / Border Collie crosses they were called Brandy, Soda and Whisky. You might gather that my Mum and Dad liked a drink! Sheep dogs are a farmer’s left arm – without them it would be impossible to move the sheep from paddock to paddock; paddock to yards; or yards to shed and our three dogs were champions, that is, until Jane came along!

The dogs did not work for love; they loved to work, but during such times as hay baling they were left tied up and all alone. This was when I could do the most damage and damage I did do! You’re not supposed to pet sheep dogs or give them hugs or extra tucker but I managed to do all three on a very regular basis. It got to the stage that whenever Dad let the dogs off their chains to do some work for him they would run to the house paddock in search of me. Through giving them heaps of love and attention I had taken over Dad’s role as their master. It was pretty hard to send me to bed for this dilemma because it had taken place very gradually over nearly 12 months.

One day Dad and Whisky were herding a mob of sheep down the South Gippsland Highway from one of our farms to another. It had taken him nearly half a day so Mum and I decided to take him lunch in the old Holden. Ahead of us we saw this lovely controlled circle of sheep with Whisky moving from side to side behind them making sure that they were moving forward, not stopping to eat grass and never letting one stray. Dad was off to the left chugging along on the tractor. At the sound of the car, Whisky’s ears pricked. When he saw me hop out the sheep were forgotten and he came pelting back up the road to jump all over me and give me lots of kisses with his wet tongue. Now some people say that sheep are silly and yes I tend to agree but when freedom can be found they know how to escape. We had sheep going in every direction. Mum pushed me back into the car and made me hide from Whisky on the floor. She and Dad and, eventually, Whisky took over an hour to round-up all the sheep again.

That night I thought I was definitely going to be sent to bed without my dinner but instead Mum and Dad carried on like nothing had happened. I don’t know which is worse, waiting for the punishment or the punishment itself! From my room, where I was reading, I could hear them whispering but I could not quite catch what they were saying and Butterball was no help because she could not speak “people talk”.

About a week later Dad went on his own to Melbourne saying he would be home before I went to bed. This was very mysterious to me because Dad never went to Melbourne alone. Mum and I had a great day. It was raining so I stayed indoors beside the kitchen fire and filled a whole colouring book. We also baked a cake and made some scones. These were all very girlie type activities but what else could I do when I didn’t have Dad to pester and Mum wouldn’t let me play outside in the rain.

After tea (my favourite – macaroni on toast) we played “Snakes and Ladders” with Mum, naturally, letting me win and feigning surprise when I did! It got to be past my bedtime and still no sign of Dad. Then we heard the Holden – you could hear it from about 2 kilometres away on a still night. I ran to the door but Mum was too quick for me and grabbed me by the collar of my pyjama top so I had to wait anxiously for Dad on the veranda.

It seemed to take him forever to walk up the pathway and in his arms he was carrying a basket. Don’t tell me how but I knew it was a dog! I wriggled hard and broke free of Mum’s tight grip – she was left with my pyjama top in her hand – and went hurtling down the path screaming, “A doggy, Daddy’s bought me a doggy.” I was jumping up and down in excitement, soaking wet and half-naked, grabbing at Dad’s leg and trying to climb up to see inside the basket.

Eventually sanity was restored. Mum and Dad got me into the house, wrapped me in a towel and let me open the lid of the basket. There in the corner was this tiny little ball of silver, brown and ginger fluff. He was no bigger than a cricket ball but he had a big black wet nose and these gorgeous brown eyes peering through his fringe. I was so scared that I might hurt him that I was too frightened to pick him up but when I saw him stagger to his feet and try to climb out of the basket I had to help and we had our first cuddle. Lochie had arrived and my heart was full. He was an Australian Silky Terrier and I named him Lochiel, Lochie for short, after our farm that was called Lochiel.

When I went to bed that night, Butterball and I were allowed to take Lochie with us but Mum’s words, “He must stay in his basket Jane” fell on deaf ears. Under the blankets, using the torch for illumination, Butterball, Lochie and I became best friends. Butterball, although she was still a kitten, was bigger than Lochie but he defended himself with sharp little teeth whenever her playing got too rough. Next morning Dad came into my room to find me fast asleep on my back and lying with his little head resting on my left shoulder was Lochie and on my right shoulder was Butterball. And that’s the way we slept every night from there on.

Both Lochie and Butterball grew very quickly but she always was a little bigger. Oh the games they would play. They would run from one end of the house to the other slipping and sliding on the polished wood floors. Many a time I would hear a yelp or miaow of pain as one of them ran too fast and couldn’t stop before sliding and crashing into a wall. Butterball would deliberately sit under the bookshelves with just her tail peeking out. Lochie would strut past pretending not to notice this cream snake swishing back and forward. Just when you thought he had ignored it he would pounce, grab the tail in his mouth and drag Butterball out and up the passage. Their friendship and delight in each other’s company was truly beautiful. During the day when they were exhausted from their games they would curl up into one big cream and silver ball. It was hard to figure where the cat finished and the dog began.

Being a terrier, I was warned that I had to be very careful when taking Lochie outside the house paddock as it would be so easy for him to run down a rabbit hole. But outside the farm paddock I had no control over him. He would run ahead (no it was more like a hop because he was so tiny, only 20 centimetres tall, he couldn’t see over the top of the grass) and the number of times Mum and I had to ring the bell to tell Dad to come home to help us dig up a rabbit warren and get Lochie out were innumerable. Dumb dog – he still persisted in trying to catch rabbits. I think he would have died of shock if he had succeeded.

He was my constant companion. If Mum could see Lochie she knew that I would not be too far away. He loved going for rides on Tango and became very adept at sitting on his rump behind the saddle. Tango also loved Lochie. One day I came out of the tackle shed where we kept all the bridles, halters and saddles to find Tango standing waiting for me at the gate and, to my amazement, there was Lochie sitting up on his back. I told Mum and Dad but they thought I was telling “pork pies” until I made them watch how Lochie and Tango accomplished such a feat of cooperation.

It was easy really – Tango would back himself up against the wood pile and Lochie would jump from log to log getting higher and higher until he managed to clamber onto Tango’s back. He would then sit down as Tango took him for a ride.

Lochie also got on well with Brandy, Soda and Whisky – or thought he did. They found him to be a real pest especially when they were in the middle of bringing a flock of sheep up to the shed because Lochie would try to help them. Sheep would scatter for kilometres when they saw this little yapping rabbit like animal coming at them. I can still hear Dad screaming at me, “Jane, control that dog of yours or I will throw him in the dam!”

Both Lochie and Butterball moved to Melbourne with me but you could tell that they too missed the freedom of the farm. We all adapted and the people in the neighbourhood soon accepted seeing me walk down the street followed by this beautiful cream cat and gorgeous shiny silver tiny dog. Soon we became friends with the boys and girls who lived in the streets around us but none of them had ever experienced the close relationship we three shared and they were all so very jealous!

Buck

This guy is just like Buck

All children love animals, so this has been written for the child in each and every one of us. It is a true story that began when I was eleven years old and was lucky enough to have a pet kangaroo. I called him “Buck” because his top front teeth jutted out. We lived on a farm in an area of Victoria called Gippsland. Victoria is the smallest State in Australia but the whole of England would fit into it!

Gippsland is very pretty – rolling hills down to the flatlands close to the coast. We lived about five kilometres from a beach called the “Ninety Mile” (ninety miles straight of fabulous sand dunes that were great to roll down, but tough to climb up). But I was going to tell you about “Buck”.

He was a Joey (that is what we call baby kangaroos) when I got him. Some horrible hunter had shot his Mum. Dad found him in our back paddock. One of the ewes was keeping him warm. He was so tiny – only about the size of a cat. My Mum made an apron of hers into a pouch for him and I filled it with cotton wool. I wore that apron everywhere, even to school, and carried Buck around with me. My body heat and the cotton wool kept him warm. At night, Mum wouldn’t let me take him to bed with me because I already had my dog, Lochie, and cat, Butterball, sharing the bed with me. She used to hang the apron near the fire in our kitchen. Buck was happy – he just slept most of the time anyway. Mum didn’t know that every night I crept down the dark passage and into the kitchen to make sure that Buck was OK. She didn’t know, that is, until one night I was very tired. She found me the next morning fast asleep on the kitchen floor with Buck in my arms. She pretended to be angry with me, but I could tell she thought it was pretty darn cute.

We had a house cow, Daisy. What else would you call a house cow? It was my job to milk Daisy by hand every morning and night. When my big brother, Hugh, came home each term from boarding school – I would squirt the milk at him instead of into the bucket. He was useless because he didn’t know how to milk a cow. It had been my job ever since I had turned seven. Hugh used to go whining to Mum that I had squirted milk at him and made him all dirty. What a sissy! Boy we had some good fights. I went to school very proud of any black eye he might have given me. Hugh because he was a boy and bigger, always won, but I hurt him heaps too!

I keep on forgetting that this is Buck’s story. The milk from Daisy was used to feed Buck – Mum put water in it because it was too strong and also a little sugar to make it lovely and sweet. We put this mixture into an old baby’s bottle that I had when I was little. Buck just loved his milk. I had to feed him 8 times a day though! It sure did take up a lot of my time, but Dad let me drop some of my other chores like feeding the horses and chopping the wood.

By summer time Buck no longer could fit in his pouch. Also, he was too heavy and I wasn’t strong enough to carry him. He had learnt to hop and he was no longer allowed in the house. His big tail had accidentally swiped one of Mum’s precious bowls off a coffee table and it had smashed into a million little pieces. Boy was I in trouble. I was sent to bed without my tea. That wasn’t very fair was it?

In the summertime because it was so hot I slept out on the back veranda. Buck loved that. He now could sleep beside me along with Lochie and Butterball. There wasn’t much room left for me though!

We were now using a big beer bottle to feed Buck his milk. Poor Daisy couldn’t provide enough milk for Buck as well as for the family. So each morning I had to ride my little white pony called Tango down the road to the farm next door (about 2 kilometres away) to collect milk from their dairy. Buck would always be waiting at the front gate of the house paddock for me to return with his milk. He really was so very greedy! And fat too!

Now the next thing I had to do was to teach Buck how to eat grass. This was really funny. Can you imagine this big kangaroo (he was about a metre high by this time) with a very strange look on his face as he watched me hopping around and then bending over and pretending to eat grass. Oddly enough after a couple of days he started to eat grass. Phew, I was getting mighty tired of all that hopping.

Buck made his home in our front paddock. He gradually became less and less dependent on me for company as, in the bush at the very back of the paddock, there was a family of wild kangaroos. Days used to go by without me seeing Buck. I was sad, but Dad explained to me that he should be with other kangaroos. He had to find a wife and have a family for himself.

The last time I saw Buck was just before we left the farm to move to Melbourne. I was thirteen. I loved the farm and didn’t want to leave but Mum and Dad were going so, naturally, I had to be with them.

Before leaving I spent a day just roaming around all the paddocks. I said goodbye to Daisy and scratched her ears for the last time. Lochie and Butterball were already in Melbourne waiting for me. Tango had been given to some little girls who lived nearby. I had been too big to ride him for nearly a year anyway. He was very happy to have two little girls looking after him. I visited my favourite dam and pulled out my yabby nets for the last time. Yabbies are fresh water prawns and they taste delicious cooked in butter and served hot. I spent some time just sitting in my tree hut that Dad had built for me. I was so sad.

Finally I got to the bush at the back of the front paddock. I desperately wanted to see Buck, but didn’t think much of my chances. I hadn’t seen him for months. He could have been kilometres away. Suddenly in a clearing filled with lush grass, I found him. He had three lady kangaroos with him (I always knew he was greedy) and there were two Joeys curled up asleep in the sun. It definitely was Buck because this two meter high kangaroo with a beautiful shiny cream coat was not frightened of me. More importantly he had a funny pouting top lip. I just sat watching him and his family for about an hour until I heard Mum ringing the bell that always was the signal for me to get my butt home!!

The Hay Shed

An Aussie hay shed very similar to what ours looked like

By now you will have realised that I was a bit of a tomboy as a child. When I was about nine this really worried Mum so, for Christmas, she gave me this beautiful doll. You know the type – frilly dress, porcelain face, and blonde curly hair – really yucky! Only trouble was that I had just finished reading a story about Joan of Arc. You guessed it – I pretended that the doll was Joan of Arc and I beheaded her with the axe I used to chop firewood for Mum’s kitchen stove. Once again I got sent to bed without any tea.

I really thought I was a boy and, as Hugh was away at school, I never twigged there was a physical difference between boys and girls. Besides that, boys did exciting things while girls played with tea sets and dolls and helped their Mums in the house. Not for me!

You’re probably also thinking that Hugh was a bit of a sissy. You’re right but he did build the best huts. I qualify that – he dug the best huts. One underground hut he dug for me had five steps down into a little square cave. I could stand up in it so it must have been at least a metre high. If my memory serves me correctly the roof of the hut was about 40cm thick. Inside he carved little nooks in the wall for my treasures, like my toad collection. It really was quite a feat! I helped by taking the soil away in a wheelbarrow and spreading it ever so carefully across the back paddock so Dad wouldn’t know we had this monstrous great hole near his tractor shed. After about a week of digging my new underground hut was finished. By this time Dad was mighty curious about what was occupying so much of our time and the next morning he followed us. Talk about yell – to say he was angry would be putting it mildly! Your right – we were both sent to bed without our dinner that night. Dad’s solution to stop us going back to the hut was to fill it up with Daisy’s poo that he had been collecting to use on his vegetable garden. The smell was so bad that neither Hugh nor I went back.

Looking back on this I realise why Dad was so angry. What would have happened if it had collapsed on us?

In the summer of my eleventh year Hugh bought a friend home with him from school. His name was David – boy did I have a crush on David but he was five years older than I was and, to him, I was just an annoying little pest they had to look after.

Every summer the farmers of the district would help one another cut the paddock grass which then was used to make the bales of hay. Hay is necessary, for in the winter grass does not grow quickly enough to provide the nourishment required by the sheep. I loved hay-baling time. Mum used to bake the best cakes for the workers to eat at morning and afternoon tea time. Lunch was always huge roast legs of lamb with lashings of vegetables all smothered in rich, brown gravy.

I wasn’t strong enough to lift the bales of hay so Lochie and I kept Dad company on the tractor as we moved the bales from the paddock to the hay shed. Hugh and David had the job of stacking the hay in the shed. Dad was so pleased about the amount of hay we stored that year; little did he know that as the boys were stacking the hay they were also building another hut. Any architect would have been proud of this hut. It had a long passage which you had to crawl through to get to two tiny rooms – one for me and one for them. On top of the passage and the little rooms were at least another ten layers of hay bales. This hut was solid though – they had used planks of wood to stop the roof falling in. We all spent hours in the hut. One night the boys sneaked out of the house and slept there – I was so jealous. Butterball and Lochie loved coming with me when I went to the hut. They would run ahead of me and climb up the haystack and creep into the secret entrance.

Boys being boys they used me all the time – I was an unpaid servant – I’d be sent, at regular intervals, to the house to get cool drinks for them and then carry them ever so carefully all the way back to the hay shed. My Mum smoked cigarettes and one time they made me pinch a few so they could try them. This was really naughty but by this time I was so smitten with David that I would have walked to the edge of the earth for him.

I think they must have smoked before because they did not go green and cough or anything like that and, being summertime, they were very careful with the butts.

You know what is coming next don’t you? Yes silly me, I had to find out what it was like to smoke.

One day Dad took Hugh and David to the cattle sales. I’d been to plenty of cattle sales and thought here was my opportunity to learn how to smoke. When Mum was working in the garden I crept into the kitchen and took one of her cigarettes and grabbed a box of matches out of the pantry. Now I had a real problem. Where could I go where I wouldn’t be found? Ah the hay shed!

So off I trotted with my cigarette and box of matches hidden in the front of my shirt. I crept along the tunnel of the hay hut and into my room. At last I have found some peace and quiet. I used about four matches to get the cigarette lit because I didn’t know that you had to suck on the other end. It was horrible! My lungs felt like they were burning and I coughed so much I had tears pouring down my face. I needed fresh air so I quickly butted the cigarette and crawled out as fast as I could. In the distance I could hear Mum ringing the bell calling me to come in for lunch. As I desperately need a drink to soothe my sore throat I ran back to the house. I had to do my chores after lunch so I didn’t get back to the shed that afternoon. Dad bought the boys home in time for tea and we all had a game of cricket on the back lawn.

It was about an hour later that we smelt the smoke. The hay shed was on fire! Dad and the boys took off to the shed grabbing old bags which they soaked in the water trough on the way. Mum and I followed with buckets. They managed to save about half the hay so it wasn’t a complete disaster but the roof of the shed was badly damaged. I knew what I had done but I was too frightened to own up. All the time we were fighting the fire I just ignored this horrible guilty feeling I had in my tummy.

When we finally got back home all sooty and sweaty I just started to cry. I was crying and sobbing so hard that no one could understand what I was trying to say. Eventually Mum calmed me down and I told them that it was my fault. You could have heard a pin drop – the silence was deafening! I didn’t wait to be told … I went to bed.

Mum and Dad must have had a long talk about how bad I had been because the next morning I was given a spanking by Dad. Yes it hurt and hurt bad. Then Dad made me ride Gobby for three hours – you can imagine how pink my bottom was after a spanking and then having to sit in a saddle for three hours! You know something? I did not cry once but I was biting my bottom lip so hard that it bled.

A couple of days later Hugh and David went back to boarding school. Summer was nearly over and gradually things returned to normal.

Dad let me help him when he re-roofed the shed and he even complimented me on being a good assistant. I knew then that I had been forgiven and that he still loved me.

A Day in the Life of Jessie!

in the middle of MY bed!

So you want to know what a normal day is like for me in Melbourne, Australia, do you?

I will start at 7:00am because that is usually when huMum stirs herself and makes breakfast. Cereal and milk for her and, as I’m on a special diet to increase my weight, I have an 85gm tin of Dine Desire tuna fillets & whole prawns in a seafood sauce! By the time huMum has watched the news, eaten her breakfast and drunk her pineapple juice I start miaowing for more food! It always works, but my bowl is only filled with a stingy ten Hill’s Prescription Diet Feline t/d treats. Ha you guessed it, Hills is way expensive and my huMum has Scottish blood running through her veins. Their t/d is good for my teeth and, judging from what the lady in the White Coat says, for a nine-year old my teeth are in remarkable condition. She hasn’t had to scrape them since huMum started giving me t/d four years ago. I’m not sure if it is available overseas but I would highly recommend it – good for you and scrumptious too!

By 8:00am you will find me in the middle of MY bed on MY blankie. If the day is sunny I will rise at noon, exit the house via my cat flap and take up residence in our courtyard garden under the lemon tree where its green leaves shield me from the ferocious summer sun. I have constructed an amazing hole in the dirt near the base of the trunk and filled it with dead leaves so it is both cool and comfie. Summertime in Australia can be wicked with temperatures to a maximum of 42C (108F) in the shade. On days like that I do tend to remain inside napping on the back of the sofa while the air-conditioner blasts me with cool air.

Afternoons are usually spent keeping huMum company when she is on the computer. I sit on the back of her chair and, over her shoulder, I watch every keystroke especially if she is using MY twitter account. I cannot allow her to give away my secrets or tell too many rude jokes. We have made so many wonderful friends including a baby pygmy hippo, a baby elephant, a tortoise, a wallaby plus numerous cats and dogs. @toughteddybear is my #bestie furiend on Twitter and we get up to so much mischief! Teddy’s beautiful fiance is @LilyLuWhoT and he is devoted to her. My dear furiends @PuppyNumber7 and @Keely_Bobs allow me, @TigerBoyTheCat and @PinballBob to live in their summer-house but heaven forbid if they call us their “pets”! I am Nanny to Thomas and Keely’s wee puppy #ourWinnie, also *whispers* I have a big crush on @kingtuttifruiti *ear blushes* – he is such a gentleman and so handsome. Even with all these furiends I sometimes feel lonely being in Australia when so many of them live in the USA, UK, Europe and South Africa. Then again, you would have to drag me caterwauling with all claws firmly planted in the carpet to get me to leave my forever home. If huMum is doing accounts or her graphics work I’ll retire to the top of MY printer and curl in a ball for another nap.

On the days huMum goes shopping in her little silver Honda Jazz she has to be careful I haven’t concealed myself behind the driver’s seat. Often I have shocked the pants off her when I’ve jumped up to sun bake and pose under the rear window! I love it when the people in passing cars point and wave to me – I’m a Princess Panther!

Dinner is served at 6:00pm, although I do start to complain at 5:00pm and often mention to huMum that she is starving me! This time I have an 85gm tin of Fancy Feast Royale tuna banquet with whole prawns! Over the years we have tried everything from fresh meat to fish heads but I’ve determined that these two brands are my favourites and I’m not keen on change. Please don’t get me wrong, I do like the food I regularly steal from huMum’s plate when she is not being vigilant. There are special treats I adore like ham, bacon, chicken and my most favourite Babybel cheese! HuMum swears that I can hear her opening a Babybel from our neighbour’s garden! Within seconds I am wrapping my body around her legs before she even has a chance to remove the cellophane from the red wax casing!

After dinner and vigorously performing my ablutions it is time for another nap, usually back on MY bed and on MY blankie! I must admit I have to expend a lot of energy washing my head and chest. HuMum constantly teases me saying, “Jessie you are the messiest eater I have ever met.” Maybe I need a bib? No that would be so embarrassing!

I rise at 8:00pm just as the sun is setting, do my stretching exercises and a two or three one-hundred yard sprints through the house, check that my bowl really is empty, test miaow on the off-chance that supper might be served early; then I’m out the door.

My stairs to the roof provide me with the ideal vantage point to check out the neighbourhood. I steer well clear of screaming children, dogs and motor vehicles. I can travel over two houses in any one of three directions without putting paw ground. Along the way I greet my hoodies, check the neighbour’s mulch bin for signs of mice and ensure that there are no strange cats in my territory. The one thing that will always attract me back to ground level is the song of the cicadas. I can sit beside a cicada hole in the garden for hours completely mesmerised by their carolling. I have never seen one even though on a few occasions I have tried to assist them to escape their homes. Another insect that has me bemused is the huge bogong moths that hang around outdoor lighting. Now these guys are prehistoric in both size and appearance and are as dumb as a doornail. A cat just has to sit with mouth open under a light and eventually they will provide you with a meal. Being a well fed cat that love’s her huMum very much I just take them home as a gift. At times I find her reactions to my gifts very insulting. She either screams and locks me outside or grabs my beautiful present out of my mouth and scurries outside to free it! If I’ve squeezed my prize too hard it is buried in the rubbish bin!

After my first neighbourhood patrol I return home for supper, which normally is a Babybel followed by more t/d to clean my teeth. If I’m in a generous mood I will cuddle up to huMum and watch TV but only if it is sport or a good British police or spy series. I’m not a lap cat but I do like wrapping my front paws over huMum’s shoulder and pressing my body flat against her chest. By 11:00pm you will find us curled up in bed. I day-dream while she reads with my favourite position being back to back as I fit into the curve of her spine perfectly!

The next patrol usually occurs when huMum’s snoring wakes me and I need to get some peace and quiet. Again I revisit the mulch bin and sit for an hour or so waiting for a mouse to poke its nose out. Patience like mine is often rewarded but of late, with all our rain, if fear they have drowned?

Bored, I slink back home at 5:00 am to play with my toys. HuMum tends to throw them around the house. So I have to collect them all together and then take each one to MY bed which I allow huMum to share at night. This takes a few minutes as each toy is special to me and requires attention, usually a bite or a double whammy back kick. I have an ulterior motive for all this activity. Yes, you guessed it; I am hoping huMum will wake early. If unsuccessful I give into my need for another nap. Next thing I know it is 7:00am and a new day has arrived. How exciting, more places to explore and adventures to experience!

HuMum’s fingers are tired from all this typing so I’ll finish by saying:

Nap time, bye-bye for now!

Ratty

Fluffy on Left and Ratty II on Right minus an ear and tail!

Ratty arrived all the way from Edinburgh, Scotland. He came in a brown padded parcel about 10 days before Christmas, 2009. I know he was in the parcel because I could smell him as he was stuffed with “the nip”! HuMum explained it was my very own special present sent by my darling Tikka (@ickle_tikkypoo) who I had met when I arrived at my forever home and was allowed to talk with her on-line when huMum was sleeping or shopping. We quickly fell in love and declared to the world our catbianism and we hope that, very soon, our elected Purrime Ministerettes, @ShivaandJaya, will have the Australian Purrliament agree to same-sex marriages. I’m not sure that Tikka’s dad (@Nav_Nikerless) is all that keen to learn his darling tortoiseshell Tikka is a catbian but he knows how much we love each other!

Back to my parcel containing Ratty; well it sat on the desk as huMum said it was a surprise for me and not to be opened until Christmas morning in Scotland. Humph! Not only did I have to wait 10 days, but then I had to wait 11 more hours. I threw up my paws in frustration and huffed out of the office to go hunting with my hoodies. When the house was dark and I could hear huMum snoring I snuck back into the office to open my present! I chewed it, clawed it, pounded it with my back feet but, for the life of me, I could not find a way into it. Tikka had got her dad to seal it with staples and yucky tasting tape. I gave up at about 7:00am and joined huMum, on our bed, for a nap. A blink of eye later I was awoken by this loud scream, “Jessie what have you been up to?” “Who me, nothing, nothing at all, I’ve been sleeping here all night till you rudely woke me!” I replied with my wide-eyed innocent look. No breakfast treats for me that morning and yet another hour on the naughty chair! The next time I was allowed in the office the parcel was missing and, although I searched the house from top to bottom, I could not find it.

Christmas day was fun even if huMum left me alone for about six hours when she went out to feed her face at a party. She had bought me lots of new toys to play with so, between naps, I shredded the wrapping paper all over the living room floor and then I gradually moved my presents up to our bed so I could snuggle them.

HuMum got home just in time to feed me the contents of the “cattybag” she’d brought for me. Real prawns and thick ham cut off the bone! I ate, burped, and ate some more. I was so disgustingly full of food I wondered if my tummy would ever return to its original shape. In the meantime, huMum had turned on computer and was chatting with Nav, she called me in so I could have a few minutes with my darling Tikka but we were disturbed by the arrival of my gift. It just magically appeared! I typed to let Tikka know that her parcel had been found and huMum was opening it for me. Oh the excitement and the joy of finally meeting Ratty. He was about 6 inches long, furry, beady eyes and nose made of cotton, plus leather ears and a satin tail. Best of all he was stuffed full of “the nip”. I was speechless, abruptly said goodbye to Tikka, jumped off the desk with Ratty in my mouth and went off to bed to explore him in-depth. It only took me thirty seconds to be as “high as a kite” and seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses, or was that the sunset?

I don’t know if it was “the nip” or the fact that ratty was the perfect size to fight with, but it took me three days to get rid of his ears and tail. He was defenceless against my continued onslaught. Every night, if I didn’t catch a real mouse, I would take my temper out on Ratty. Within two weeks I had degutted him! I can’t count the number of times this year that huMum has patiently sewn Ratty back together but, just last week, we had to finally admit he was beyond repair and he was buried in the garbage bin.

I mourned him and yowled every night until huMum arrived home with Fluffy. Now this is one very big solidly constructed mouse! Three days with her and I have just managed to shred a few tiny cotton threads from her towelling rope tail. To be perfectly honest she’s not nearly as much fun as Ratty, thus my letter to Santa has included a request for another Ratty (plus ping-pong balls and a laser pointer) and we are going to mail it tomorrow. HuMum has told me that I will only get my wishes granted if I’m very good so tonight I bought her the first mouse of the summer season and when that disappeared into the rubbish bin I replaced it with a moth!

Nap time, bye-bye for now!

The Case of the Disappearing Decorations!

Merry Christmas!

Back in mid-November 2005, I had no idea what Christmas was all about, so huMum sat me down one night and told me a little bit about Jesus, but I don’t think she believed the stories regarding the miracles. She said that Christmas was his birthday and it was celebrated by some humans as a way of honouring him. This confused me as instead of giving presents to Jesus, humans gave presents to each other. Then she told me that even anipals received presents and that Jesus had died 100s of years ago! Sigh, maybe one day I will figure it out but can someone explain who Santa Claus is if Christmas is supposed to be about a birthday party for Jesus?

Days later our lounge room was filled with bags and bags of ribbon, beads, baubles, bells and everything was white or silver. HuMum begged me to stay away while she began to make bows and double bows, some with just a little bit of red and all tied with tiny silver bells. Must admit these bows were a work of art and maybe this year when we put up our tree I will convince her to take a picture of it for you. I spent most of this industrious week sitting on the back of my favourite sofa intrigued with how her dancing fingers could create such wonderful decorations. They looked like the best toys a cat could have and I so desperately wanted to play with them. When she finished, each night, she packed everything up into boxes that, no matter how hard I tried, I could not find their entrance. She laughed at me in the morning when she found that I still had not managed to open one box and told me they were cat proof!

Bad move huMum haven’t you learned never challenge your Jessie! I will discover a way to make all these baubles, beads, bells, ribbons and bows mine!

At last it was December 13 and huMum struggled into the house with a big box. Out of this she constructed the most incredible tree. It had a silver stand and branches but all the needles were black! In all my Google searches I had never seen a black pine tree, except dead ones! Was my huMum a crazy witch? Should I be scared? Is this why she chose me, a panther cat?

HuMum told me to be patient and, if I was very good, she would let me help her turn the lights on. I returned to the back of my sofa to watch her fashion a masterpiece. First of all she started with metres of fairy lights and then every bow, bauble and bell, plus the strings of pearl beads were carefully placed on and around the tree. I was fast asleep by the time she had finished but, when she nudged me awake, it really was a magnificent sight to behold. HuMum called me over and put my paw on the light switch and, voila, the tree came alive. We both sat on the floor in front of it, eating our supper snacks. I was just awestruck and huMum let me wander around the tree but every time I went to touch a bell, bow, bead, or bauble she used the most dreaded word in the human vocabulary “no”!

If I wasn’t allowed to touch then I was off to play with my hoodies and huMum could go clean her teeth, put that night gunk on her face and go to bed. I’d see her later when I’d done my Neighbourhood Watch.

Three of my hoodies asked why I was so late, so I explained about our Christmas tree. They didn’t believe me so we crept up to our front window and their ohs and ahs, when they spied it twinkling through the front window, where music to my ears.

Dismantling of the Tree

I arrived home at about 4:00am just when the birds were starting to wake, checked that my bowl was really empty and then, out of the corner of my eye, I spied the sparkling tree. HuMum had placed the tree between our front window and the big sofa. An incredible flash of inspiration overtook me! The lower limbs of the tree were hidden by the sofa and were not easily visible to biped humans!

I’d have to work fast as huMum usually stumbled out of bed at 7:00am and I didn’t want to get caught with the evidence in my possession. Quietly I started to pick off bows, baubles, bells and one section of pearl beads. The quandary was what to do with them? The baubles and bows were definitely too large to swish with my tail under the sofa. Oh dear, had I bitten off more than I could chew, was this challenge too big for me to accomplish? Another flash of inspiration! HuMum had accidentally left the garage door open and in the garage was my old litter tray which I didn’t use any more. Bingo! I could hide my trophies in the litter tray and cover it with one of the leaf trash bags stored near it!

Looking at the clock I had half an hour before huMum stirred. I grabbed a bauble, a bow and wrapped the beads around my tummy by rolling myself over and over them. Quietly I squeezed out my cat-flap and deposited the first load in the litter tray. It took me five speedy trips but, finally, hiding the proof of my de-fleecing the tree of its bottom layer of decorations was accomplished and I had five minutes to settle my breathing and calm my pounding heart.

To be honest, three days later when my theft of the decorations was discovered, I had completely forgotten about being so mischievous. So it was very easy for me to innocently wash my face as huMum ranted and raved about what a ghastly girl I was and how she would never forgive me for vandalising her tree! I was woman-handled and firmly placed on my naughty chair and told not to move until she’d found her decorations! Fine! I turned my back and curled in ball to nap. I felt no guilt whatsoever!

Eventually, after looking in every cupboard and under every piece of furniture in the house, even pulling out drawers, huMum moved to the garage and there she found my stash. Half an hour later, out of one eye, I saw that the tree was restored to its previous beauty so I gave a small and pitiful miaow. I could tell huMum was trying hard not to laugh and I knew I was definitely forgiven when she picked me up and let me lie half over her shoulder in my favourite position while she scratched my tummy.

I must admit, after that exercise, we did have daily tiffs about the odd one or two baubles I managed to swipe off the tree to play with during the night. Every morning she’d patiently restore them to their rightful place, tying them on tighter!. By the time Christmas day arrived I was bored with our tree and did not miss it when it was put away. Each year since then we have had our clashes over the ornaments but it has become part of our Christmas tradition!

Nap time, bye-bye for now!

Brian The Brush Tail Possum

This guy must be Brian’s first cousin as they could be twins

I first met Brian in November, 2003 when I was on my nightly patrols. Summer was nearly with us and accordingly the spring mice population was expanding by the hour in the park behind our home. Put it this way, I no longer had to attend twitter #keepfits as I was running about a kilometre a night to and from the park with presents for huMum. The easiest and fastest route was cat flap – fence – top of roof – fence – top of roof – fence, followed by a purrfect soft four pawpoint landing in the park. Being dumb, field mice have none of the offensive manoeuvres of house mice and *whispers* none of the germs. I pounced on family after family of field mice every night but please do not pity these little cuties as, if uncontrolled, they would take over a very family orientated park where children come to play and mums and dads with babies come to find peace. Imagine sharing your picnic with a mass of field mice. So I and my fellow “hoodies” are making the park safe for you. Puffs out chest!

One night I was making my way home along the last fence with a very annoyed, fidgety and squeaky mouse in my mouth and struggling through the Camellia tree, when I heard a noise like nothing I had ever heard. It was a guttural growl and it sent shivers down my spine. I’ve nothing to be frightened of, I shakily told myself. It’s a dark night and being a famous experienced panther hunter then it’s logical that not a soul can see me. Finally, once through the Camellia I was confronted by “Brian the Brush Tail Possum” and boy was he big and very bad-tempered. In shock I dropped the mouse and took 5 steps back into the shelter of the tree, in the hope I could hide myself. I swear to you this guy was at least 5kgs heavier than me, was smelly and those huussskkkks, screeches and guttural growls will give me nightmares for the rest of my life.

Eventually he decided to jump down into my neighbour’s garden so I was free to zoom at a zillion miles per hour back home and cuddle up, still shaking, with huMum for the rest of the night, demanding she wrap me in her arms under the blankies.

HuMum had heard our noisy meeting on the fence, so the next day we spent a few hours on the web learning about them. We have found that their diet is mainly plant-based i.e. leaves, fresh gum tips and flowers, however they also occasionally eat insects, eggs and meat. An open compost bin in a backyard becomes an enticing smorgasbord for a hungry urban possum. Problem solved, he was only after the neighbour’s compost bin and their fruit trees which includes plums, apple and pears.

Over the years I’ve met with Brian on a number of occasions but now his growls no longer freak me out (too much). We say hello but I can’t say that we are friends as he is a vegetarian and I’m a carnivore.

I have a feeling he might be good at cards so with the approval of my “hoodies” I might invite him to one of our Friday night Poker Games. I guess I will have to provide him with a few mice for his kitty as the “hoodies” would laugh at him if he tried to bet with apples.

Last summer we found Brian’s home when sadly a tree damaged in a storm had to be cut back. The very kind tree doctors moved his house to the tree next door. It took him a while to get used to his hew home but I’ve noticed that he built a little roof over it to protect him from all the rain we have been receiving in recent years.

Nap time, bye-bye for now!

An Australian Christmas

Looking down at the Ninety Mile Beach, Woodside, Victoria, Australia

Memories of Christmas in rural Victoria, Australia in mid-1960

For the weeks leading up to Christmas Nancy, my Mum, slaved in a very hot kitchen with the old Aga combustion stove making the entire house feel like an oven.  My Dad (Cameron) was also busy helping Mr. Parker, who lived on the next door farm, kill and hang one of his sows plus four ducks. Half the pig and two ducks were bought back to Mum who then had the onerous task of cooking them.  Not only that, she also baked at least two Christmas fruit cakes, mince pies, shortbread and always gingerbread men for Hugh and me.

All our fruit and vegetables came from the farm’s orchard and garden.  It was my job to ensure that Mum had enough apples, oranges, plums, spring onions, tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, potatoes, celery, cucumber and peas to make the salads.

Looking back on it now, I honestly don’t know how she managed! Plus have the time to keep two very excited children occupied. Maybe Dad gave us extra chores to keep us busy and away from their bedroom cupboards which were filled with strangely shaped parcels.

The last chore of Christmas Eve, before we all chugged off in the ancient Holden to a party, was to make sure all the prepared food was cold.  In those days our refrigerator was powered by gas and not all that big, so Dad went to the ice-works in Yarram, bought three blocks of ice and sped the 12 miles back to the farm before it melted.  Beer, cider, cordial and water bottles were all put on the ice (as well as the food that could not be squeezed into the fridge) and then tightly wrapped in hessian bags.

The Christmas Eve party really was just an excuse for all the local farmers and their families to let their hair down and get completely sozzled!  About thirty kids from toddlers to teenagers were let loose and we always ended up exploring the Bruthen Creek and building dams so we could swim in its shallow waters.  Our dams were discovered on Boxing Day when the farmers downstream found that their supply of water had been reduced to a trickle!  Finally exhausted by our adventures, we returned to the various family cars and slept until driven home in the early hours of the morning by inebriated parents.

Very few farming families had the time for Christmas decorations or trees, so we grew up with Santa Claus leaving our gifts in a pillow slip which was propped against the end of our bed.

Being the youngest, I always woke at the crack of dawn and dragged my pillow slip up the hall to the kitchen yelling at the top of my voice “Santa’s been!”  Our very hung-over parents were forced out of bed by all the noise and soon we were unwrapping our gifts.  Being a tomboy, I was saved the ignominy of dolls and found that Santa always left things like new riding boots, a sling-shot, a basketball plus lots of clothes.  While we were madly unwrapping, Mum was making us toast and eggs.  Dad carved the first slices of the chilled baked ham.  It was a light breakfast as we knew we needed to leave space for the day ahead.

Work never stops on a farm, even for Christmas!  We had a cow to milk, wood to chop, sheep and cattle to feed.  Also, troughs to be filled with water to get the stock through the heat of the day.  At 11:00 am we were finished and ready to help Mum pack the car.  Two enormous eskies were filled with all the food and my old tin baby bath contained the beer, soft drinks and ice.  Plus beach blankets, towels, a large sun umbrella, swimming togs and extra clothes as we would not be home until after dark.  There was hardly enough room for us in the car to drive the 3 miles to the Ninety Mile Beach, so I would ride my horse, Goblin Gold (aka Gobbie), as he so enjoyed being able to have a swim in the ocean.

The road into the beach at that time was not sealed so the drivers had to be very careful not to bog their cars in the soft sand at the back of the dunes.  I can remember there was always a race to park the cars in the shade of one of the three trees in the vicinity of the beach.  About ten families joined us and the men carted all the food over the dunes down to the pristine beach.  Ninety miles of sand and surf as far as the eye could see with only fifty people to enjoy its beauty.  It was like living on a deserted moonscape made of sand with bull rushes in the towering dunes behind.

The women quickly organised blankets, towels and beach umbrellas while the men cracked the tops off the frosty cold beer bottles.  We excitedly waited and fidgeted a lot when being assisted into our togs and slathered with sun protection cream.  Then the whoops and yells as we all ran for the water.  By the age of five I’d learned to swim in the pounding surf of Woodside Beach where waves smaller than three feet were a rare occurrence.

Lunch was usually served at around 1:00 pm and our plates were filled with every assortment of food possible; pork, turkey, duck, chicken, ham, potato salad, egg salad, tomato & onion salad and so much more!  All food was served chilled with icy glasses of cordial for the kids and beer for the adults.  Back in those days wine was only drunk at weddings and funerals!  Fruit salads were provided for those who still had room in their bulging bellies.

The adults took to their towels under a multitude of umbrellas to sleep off the gluttony of the day, while we kids headed for the dunes.  Some of us had assembled cardboard sleighs which we dragged up these 150 feet hills!  Then jumping on and racing each other, with howls of laughter, to the bottom.  Crashes, tears, giggles and joy filled our afternoon until we were called back to the main party and again covered in sun lotion before our final swim for the day.  At last our parents seem to be over their self-inflicted headaches and were ready to play with us.  Beach cricket to one side, volley ball at the other or sand castle building – with prizes being given to every child no matter who won!

As the sun went down behind the dunes the beach darkened and it was time to light our bonfire.  The wood for this fire had been collected, over a number of weeks, from nearby farms.  To give you an idea of its size, twenty people holding hands could encircle it.  Snacking on the last of the leftovers we all sat around singing carols, reciting Australian poetry and, best of all, listening to stories about World War II.  Children fell asleep in the arms of their parents and gradually as the fire dimmed we all said goodbye to our very rural Australian Christmas Day!

Mice/Rats Beware!

Mouse/Rat Champion

Summer is on its way but, as it’s chilly at night, I’m still sleeping snuggled up to my huMum’s tummy wearing my ear-plugs because of the atomic bomb snores that emit from her nose. She says I snore but we all know that they are just nose-purrs!

During our hot summer months, part of my Neighbourhood Watch routine includes, not just playing with my “hoodies”, but I have to ensure all the children are tucked up safely in bed, plus every night I hiss at old man bushy-tail, a Brush Tailed Possum. He’s a big boy so my hiss is very polite, not because I’m cowardly, but he is at least double my weight, grumpy and highly territorial. Years ago I made the wise decision never to upset him too much as the noises he makes would give my all-time hero, Chewbacca, the heebie-jeebies!

I always end my evening walkabout in our neighbour’s back garden. They have two beautiful Australian Tiffanies but, as they are house cats, we have had to become friends through their back windows. My nightly visits assure them that all is well with the tiny world they look out on. Little do they know that at the very end of their garden behind their Dad’s shed is my favourite place to visit.

The Mulch Bin

It is like a huge upside down green wheelie bin with a big hole in the bottom and a lid on the top. (By the way, I think wheelie bins should be banned, not only are they hazardous to felines who get trapped in them but also they make scary noises when being moved out to the street for the big trucks to come and empty them.) The neighbours fill their mulch bin with garden clippings, leaves, grass, leftovers and scraps from the kitchen, some paper and straw. Yes, I had to look it up on Google but, eventually, the bin makes compost which is really good stuff to put around plants as it is full of nutrients and is a natural fertiliser. (Who said that the internet wasn’t useful?)

Field mice, looking for a warm and cosy home, escape from the park which is just over the fence and is way too busy with dogs being walked and kids playing games. They take up residence under the bin every winter as the compost is warm. Mice being mice do their mice thing (I think they are bored) and within weeks there are lots of baby mice! It has to be one of nature’s miracles! Cats being cats do their cat thing, depopulate the world of mice because they remind us of our toys!

I’m a very patient cat and some nights I have to sit for two or three hours before I catch my prey. I use this time to ponder about such things as who makes the warm or cool air that blows down through our ceiling at home? How does it know whether to make warm or cool air? Are there really elephants in the moon, as @_Shuffs_ says? Where does the sun go when it sets? I wish huMum would get me an iPad so I could take it with me when I’m sitting, being patient, waiting for a curious mouse to stick its head out of the bottom of the much bin.

“Gotcha! No, no, no don’t squiggle. I promise I don’t want to hurt you. You are a present for my huMum. Shhhhh stay quiet, no squeaking or she will hear you.” Up the fence we go and then over onto neighbour’s roof and the long walk home to my roof, down onto the fence again and we are back to the patio.

In through the cat-door and I announce “HuMum we are home! Mum, mum, HUMUMMY look what I’ve got for you.” Very excited but muffled miaows emit from the sides of my mouth. “Yes it is for you but just let me play with it for a little while.” Woohoo huMum is joining in on the game. She is chasing me and I am chasing the mouse. We zoom around the dining room table, in and out through the chair legs, across the kitchen floor into the living room. Oh dear, the mouse is under the sofa. Uh oh huMum is making those muttering sounds that mean she is not happy, but she lifts the sofa and I dash under and grab my mouse. Damn huMum, in turn, has caught me! “Nope I will not give it to you,” I say. Darn it all, she has my mouse. “What it is dead? I promise you I didn’t mean to kill it. I just squeezed it too hard.”

HuMum locks me in the bathroom for 10 minutes. I make pitiful miaows and when let out I do my mad cat zoomy run to the living room and search for the mouse. It has gone! I look at huMum accusingly but she has gone back to watching the television. I’ll pay her back for making my mouse disappear. Yes, I know it was huMum’s present but it was still mine! All mine I tell you!

Easily solved I’ll just go and get another one! And so the cycle continues. I think my best record was four in one evening. The last of which I left on huMum’s bed for her to find when she woke up! She thought it was Christmas! NOT!

I think our best anecdote was when huMum was preparing for a dinner party happening the following evening. Just as she was making the gazpacho soup, I arrived home with a fairly big mouse hanging out of my mouth. To my delight there was a really long chase and I think I escaped capture about five times but, in my agitation, I accidentally dropped the mouse just near the refrigerator. HuMum was not impressed as she struggled to move the fridge out, but the wily old mouse just moved each time the fridge moved. “It is ok, I will stand guard all night,” I promised huMum, “You go and have a sleep.” She left all the doors onto the patio open that night in the hope that I would fall asleep on guard-duty and the mouse would escape. Ha! She has no idea what a good sentinel I am!

The next night I was banished to the bedroom so I didn’t get under the feet of the guests or shame huMum by jumping on the dining room table while they were eating. This is what I was told happened…

The meal was over and everyone was mellow from good food and a couple of bottles of Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon, the lights were dim and warm air drifted in from the patio. Suddenly, one of the female guests let out an almighty SCREAM! “A mouse just walked across your kitchen floor,” she gasped! HuMum, although embarrassed, calmly told her guests how her beautiful Jessie (that’s me!) had lost one of her mice presents. She promised them it was a very clean, wee field mouse and would not hurt anyone.

The mouse must have escaped because it was not there when I was let out of my bedroom exile. HuMum, as she did the dishes and I sat on kitchen bench watching, told me the entire story. She was laughing so much tears were rolling down her cheeks. I was given lots of cuddles and got soapy suds all over me but I didn’t mind as her final words proudly rang in my ears, “Jessie, my darling, you are the best security guard cat and mouser/ratter in all of Australia!”

Nap time, bye-bye for now!

Cheese Glorious Cheese!

*burp* excuse me, blame it on the vintage cheddar!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have noticed my penchant for cheese, in particular, vintage tasty cheese. It took huMum a while to figure this out as she isn’t a big consumer of cheese and rarely has it in the house. A day finally arrived when she was using it to make scones. Oh the aroma! I tell you it is better than the “nip”! So I miaowed loudly, did double back-flips, climbed the curtains, sat on my scratching pole (which overlooks the kitchen bench) to attract her attention. Eventually she noticed me (dumb blonde) and passed a morsel. Gulp it was gone! “Oh you like that do you?” she asked. “More please,” I replied.

The problem is huMum had read an old wives’ tale that cheese is not good for cats, something about it causing us constipation. Well I’ll have you know that my bowel habits are very regular and none of anyone’s business!

Ever since the breakthrough day of the cheese scones huMum has given me little scraps of cheese when she is using it in her cooking, but it is never quiet enough. It just makes me want more and more and more! OK I’ll admit it. I am addicted. I love they way it looks, feels, smells, tastes; it is manna from heaven.

Liberation of the Cheese

Way back in June this year I hatched a devious plot and told you about it but, with only 140 characters in Twitter, it is very difficult to explain the scheming, calculating, hard work, danger and suspense that goes into appropriating a block of cheese. So here and now I will tell you the full story and I know you will forgive my embellishments.

I’m sitting at our front window patiently waiting for huMum’s car to come up the driveway. There it is! Zooming through house at breakneck speed, exit via my door, I arrive just as she steps out of the car! My head is rubbed but that is not what I want. “Open the hatch now you silly huMum, let me smell what you have brought home for me,” I miaow. I jump in when it opened and rummage through all the green eco-friendly bags and, yes, I smell cheese! Wrapping my body around huMum’s legs as she carries the bags to the kitchen and not letting her alone for a minute until she unpacks “my” cheese. “What! What are you doing? Why are you putting it in that cold white machine and hiding it from me?” I’m so disgruntled I leave in high dudgeon, tail in air showing off my neat arse!

The rest of the day is spent scheming. I go on Google when huMum is having her “nanna nap” and discover that the cold white machine is called a refrigerator and that its door has a rubber seal. Ding! My brain light goes on! I can definitely break into this cheese eating monster but first I have to grow my nails extra long. For the next few days I don’t allow myself to use my scratching pole or to climb trees. I must be patient and very wily.

Two days later, when my nails are very long and sharp, I start. Yes, you guessed it! I am going to strip the rubber along the bottom of the cold white machine’s door so that I can extricate my cheese. If I’m lucky I might be able to set free the chicken wings and beef patties too. It’s wonderful when I get big bits of rubber off, so rewarding. OK it is nearly 7.00am; using my tail I have to carefully sweep the evidence under the refrigerator. OMC the smell of cheese is strong! I’m pretending to be asleep on the back of the sofa while watching huMum, out of one eye, make her breakfast. Think I forgot to tell you that the sofa is my second favourite place to nap. Sorry I digress; the break-in will take place tonight.

Oh no, I just heard huMum telling her girlfriend that she is going to watch the soccer World Cup tonight. I can’t execute my plan to snaffle the cheese until after 2.00am. Instead, I’ll do my Neighbourhood Watch early, plus check out the mouse’s nest under the mulch bin.

Quietly I sneak back into the house dragging the barbecue tongs behind me. Puffing and panting, squirming and struggling I eventually manage to prise open the door of the cold white machine. Triumphantly I jump in! Uh oh! The door has slammed shut and the light is out! Shivering with cold I brace my shoulders against the meat tray and heave with my back legs. Escape made! Now for the mad-cat run to my wee swinging door with the cheese in my back-pack.

Burp, please excuse me. Yikes I am so fat I look like a black Garfield. Worse still is that my gigantic stomach is preventing me washing my “privates”. Think I better go for a nap and, hopefully, sleep it off.

Ten hours later … OMC I’m blocked! Straining to pooh is definitely undignified. It is worse than having kittens! Parp! Ugh, did I do that? Washing my arse in embarrassment. Not only that, I’m in pussy-purgatory as huMum has found the empty cheese tray! I’m pretending to be oblivious to her mutterings but she knows me too well. I’ve been sent to my naughty chair and been denied snacks for a week. I would do it all again tomorrow if I could summon enough energy.

Nap time, bye-bye for now!