10 goals for 2010 – end of year round-up

So at the start of 2010, I set myself 10 goals:

  • 1. To make a meal using only ingredients I’ve grown, raised, caught or killed myself.
  • 2. To travel to a place on my “top ten places to go before I die” list.
  • 3. Finish writing my second novel.
  • 4. Learn how to make sausages – wet English style ones and cured ones too.
  • 5. Spend at least a day fishing out on the North Sea.
  • 6. Finally finish learning how to drive.
  • 7. Make a full outfit’s worth of clothing for myself – including spinning any wool used.
  • 8. Learn how to program and make a mini-game/application using Ruby.
  • 9. Climb a mountain or at least a jolly big hill.
  • 10. Participate more in the real world – plan/run a real life green event or scheme.

I achieved just two of them. TWO!

I am, understandably, a bit disappointed with that but as I mentioned throughout the year, the goals were supposed to put me on a journey rather than being the destination.

The two goals I did achieve (“To make a meal using only ingredients I’ve grown, raised, caught or killed myself” and “Learn how to make sausages”) were part of my overall desire to adopt a more simple, DIY life and I think that’s going wonderfully in the right direction. The making an outfit goal was part of that – and while I didn’t meet that goal, I did learn to spin wool, I experimented with dyeing yarn too and I also made some attempts at sewing clothes. The fishing goal was a failure due to procrastination and disorganisation – it’s on the list for next year and by-huff-or-by-puff, it’s going to happen.

The last two (“Climb a mountain or at least a jolly big hill” and “Participate more in the real world”) were in an effort to get me out from behind my computer and/or off the sofa. With Lily’s arrival in March, we started walking in “our” woods every day and most weekends (one or both days) see us heading further afield for strolls. That’s a good thing. I didn’t realise what a small-talk-instigator dogs are either – I think we know considerably more people (and their dogs) than if we’d gone out wandering in the woods on our own. Another good thing. Also, while it’s not green-related, I get out and meet people regularly through my work & play at Bingley Little Theatre – this year I’ve helped with two productions and summer showcase, as well as helping teach two classes a week. A frickin’ ace thing.

I have less-than-almost-ever interest in learning to drive. I’m not scared or anything, there just doesn’t seem a lot of point to it. Occasionally I think it would be useful if I could drive somewhere instead of having to enlist John but I don’t have enough sustained motivation to start learning again – and finding the time/money is another issue. I’ve also rethought my position on my travel goal – as I wrote in my November goal update, the way we’d have to do it feels too much like consumerism, to much to have and not to be. So I’m not bothered that I haven’t achieved that either.

The novel thing and the Ruby thing are probably my biggest disappointments – nothing other than procrastination/excitement about other things stopping me there really. A revised version of the novel one will be on my goal list for 2011. The Ruby one probably won’t be – but that’s not to say I don’t want to learn — I think I will love programming when I get into it – I just need to find a new book/teaching method first.

So that’s it for 2010. The goal achievements were worth the disappointments. The rest of my life was similar – had some awesome wins, had some dark spots, some new starts and left some things behind.

Team Peach expanded (Lily-dog and the chicken tribe) but sadly contracted too (we lost Carbon). I’ve eaten a helluva lot of good food, read many many good books (highlights: lots of stuff from the first half of the 20th Century including ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ by Winifred Watson, ‘Good Evening Mrs Craven and other stories’ by Mollie Panter Downes and ‘The Death of Grass’ by John Christopher), learned a lot of new stuff and laughed loads.

As That Tommy Hall would say, 2010, you’ve been a year.

A year ago today – six beautiful things from our house move

It’s a year today since we moved into our new home. I only started 3BTing a couple of months after the move so only have just a few tweets to mark the day — I think a few hindsight 3BTs are in order ;)

1. It’s strange to see our things, the items that decorate our lives, out of context, packed Tetris-style onto the van.

2. John drives us and the cats over ahead of the van. They’ve been kept out of the way in the bedroom all day over there and here, they’re shut away in the bathroom. Taking in cushions and duvets that smell like us, I join them and after a moment’s hesitations, they’re out of the carry boxes and exploring as a group: in the bath, on the window sills and peering in the mirror expecting to see out then turning around to realise it’s a reflection of the same room.

3. I leave the cats to help empty the van and provide desperately required cups of tea. Two of the movers stand, cups in hands, looking out of the living room window, gazing out at the tree line and down into the woods. “Nice, innit?” I hear one of them say to the other. (I’ve seen that exact scene – same stances, same stares – repeated several times over the last year, the position of the window just seems to demand it.)

4. I return to the bathroom and two of the cats are gone! Gone! They’d been fine in this strange room in this strange house while I’d been there but when I’d left them, they’d got frightened. Boron is alone, curled up on the duvet and I search for the others, acutely aware of the open doors and windows downstairs. I find Carbon back in his usually much-loathed carry box but his sister is still missing. I scrabble around looking for her, calling her name. Then I notice that the towels hanging over the radiator look plumper than usual. I touch the rounding and a shiny black nose appears out of the far end.

5. Once the movers are gone and the house is secure, we let the cats creep out of the bathroom. We herd them into the bedroom – they sniff around and jump on the dresser. Then someone, Boron I think it was, leads the charge downstairs and into the dining room. Blasé now, they head straight to the living room door – they want to see more, more!

6. We unpack some key boxes – the kitchen stuff, our clothes – then after weeks of long days, we allow ourselves to relax. The cats join us on the sofa – as I’d predicted “home” for them is the sofa and us – then at bedtime, they follow us up the stairs to our mattress on the floor. In the morning, we’ll all wake up dazzled by the morning sun upon us and I’ll tell the cats “sun! in your bed! how ace is that?”. It’s really pretty ace.

3BT – nice weather for water birds, fab cats, ugly Google, happy hound

1. We’ve been avoiding the muddy woods and walk to Apperley Bridge instead. We watch the swans and their perfect reflections in the marina, then the ducks squabbling on the canal.

2. It’s 11th years to the day since Carla & her late brother Carbon came to live with me. Throughout the day, I sing celebration songs to Carla and miss her brother.

3. A joke becomes real and we all get headaches from looking at it for too long.

4. Lily sits at our feet while we enjoy the hearty meal. The shift manager sneaks her treats and tickles. On the way home, we stop for a park for a quick stroll at dusk and she plays with an excitable young terrier. All in all, a good evening for the dog and for us.

3BT – fighting it, warmth, perfect combination

1. Since she came to live with us a week ago, Lily has fought a constant battle against sleep during the day – she’s exhausted but there is a slim possibility that something exciting might happen (and everything we do is exciting at this stage) so she wants to keep watching us just in case. Slowly though, her eyes give in and the muscles around her eyes twitch as they relax. It reminds me of the time I watched my lovely boy Carbon fall fast asleep.

2. I think about lighting the stove to recreate the loveliness that was last Sunday afternoon but instead, we head out inside. After a morning of sunshine, the metal of the balcony is warm underfoot. I eat my lunch while the cats and dog sunbathe around me.

3. The cheese – a mature but creamy cheddar – is perfect on the jacket potato. The Tommy flakes* in the tuna are a hit too.

* A selection of spices supplied in a ready-to-use grinder by our friend Tom. The plan is that from his base selection, we’ll involve our own mix then pass some back to him, and so on – the spice mix evolving as our tastes change over time. Our current Tommy flakes mix is garlicky and salty, but with a spicy kick too.

16 Beautiful Things about Carbon

Yesterday, we returned from the office on a high – it had been a good day and on the way back, we’d popped into the vets to get a reference for something very exciting set to happen this weekend. It was to be a happy pet week. Carla & Boron greeted us at the door as usual and we pottered around with them for a couple of minutes before I went to find Carbon – see where that lazy bones was.

He was on the bed. When I stepped into the bedroom doorway he meowed at me – like he often does to say hello when he can’t be bothered moving, and I called him lazy. His second meow told me something was wrong. He tried to get up to walk across the bed but his back legs weren’t working. I screamed for John and we both watched as Carbon tried but failed to walk again.

We rushed him to the vets and were seen straight away. With no pulse in his legs or feeling in his toes, and a new heart murmur, the vet diagnosed a thrombosis. Her colleague agreed. The heart problem would probably have been developing for a while but the onset of the last clot would have been sudden. Treatment options are incredibly limited and will most likely fail, just prolonging his pain so instead, we had to say goodbye.

Carbon was an awesome cat. Truly great. We – him, Carla & me – had our ten year anniversary together last June and while he was nervous with strangers, he’s always been happy and loving with me, and later with John.

1. He had the longest nose of any cat I’d ever met. We used to joke he took after his prominently proboscised dad. We used to call him Mr Long Nose. We used to call him a lot of things: Carbs, Carbon-cat, Carby, Carby-Carb-Carb, Carbo’, Carbonara, C, Crabon, Crabs, Scabbles, Chief, Mr Fang, Mr Whiny, Senor Whinestein, Obi-Whine Kenobi, Whine-akin Skypurrer, the Moose, Giant-o, Cougar… He also had the palest lemon eyes and the silkiest tail of any cat ever. His ears were slightly rounded at the top too – I could recognise him just from the tips.

2. When I first met him, he was asleep on top of his sister in their RSPCA cage. We thought they were just one giant cat until a second nose and pair of ears appeared. I remember that first meeting very clearly and how, just a few hours later, we took them home.

3. He wasn’t a great hunter – he once caught a misc brown bird in Liverpool (I told him he couldn’t bring it inside because it wouldn’t match the colour scheme) and he also “caught” a magpie in Leeds – “caught” because the magpie was surprisingly well intact for an angry bird and an inept hunter — we think it probably froze to death and he found it. He was so proud that he’d found it.

4. He was a greedy little guy and his most favourite thing was cooked ox heart. He had it regularly in Liverpool but it wasn’t as easy to find over here so it was a rare treat. We got them some at Morrisons the other day though – they had some raw then I slow roasted the rest and they all LOVED it.

5. Alongside eating, his other trademark was his whine (hence the whine-themed nicknames). He worked out the acoustically optimum place for his whining in the house – usually the bottom of the stairs – and whiiiiiiiiiiined. It was usually a locating device (to hear where we responded from) but in the morning, it was also a “get up and feeeeeeeed meeeee” whine.

6. Carbon was my best friend in the morning because I always gave him the dregs of my cereal milk. It was our little ritual and whenever I ate cereal out of the house (such as in the car on the way to the office), I always left the dregs before remembering he wasn’t there to drink them.

7. While waiting for the milk and at other times when he wanted a hug, he was the cat most likely to stomp all over my keyboard. Just the other day, he managed to do some unknown key combination to transfer all my email from one account into the inbox of another account but he usually just tried to turn on Caret Browsing (F7), loaded Mozilla Help (F1) or tried to prnt scrn.

8. When he ran across the tarmac in Armley, he used to run like he was from under the red sun, as exemplified by Florp the stand-up comedian in the Futurama episode, My Three Suns. He had a lovely gait and I never tired of watching him quick-walk around. The white spot on his chest would jiggle as he moved.

9. With Sili, our beloved little girl who died of stomach cancer last July, he’s on Google Maps Street View. The road was quiet enough that they could sit out there all day without being disturbed too much.

10. His fangs stuck out of his mouth a little way, little white tips on his black lips. Sometimes I’d stroke them while he slept.

11. Like his sister, his belly sometimes smelled like popcorn. He’d let me bury my face in it and tickle it – but if the tickling got too much for him, he’d gnaw at my knuckles – not biting, more like how a baby gums a toy. His most memorable smell though was after he’d been running and he was sweaty. Sweaty cat is my favourite smell. I’d inhale that deeply.

12. When I entered a room and caught his eye, he’d puff out his chest and move his head around, proud and happy, waiting for a tickle.

13. He had a loud rumble of a purr but sometimes environmental noise would drown it out and you could just feel him vibrating.

14. Curled up on our knees, he’d often stretch out his long front legs so they’d dangle in the air in front of him. We called this SuperChiefing.

15. At night, after his dinner, he’d like a drink of water. Specifically the water in the beaker on my nightstand. I’d shoo him away but when I wasn’t looking, he’d stick his nose in. I’d frequently wake up during the night to the sound of lapping.

16. In Liverpool, when he had to stay in at night, he used to join me as soon as I went to bed and cuddle up next to my belly while I read. Then later, when Carla came into the bedroom too, he’d relinquish the prime spot to his sister and he’d curl up next to my legs instead. In Leeds, when he could come and go as he pleased through the cat flap, he was out most nights for at least part of the night but during our last few weeks, after a couple of fights with a new cat on the block, he started sleeping with us. That continued here and he slept with us nearly every night, including his last.

His last day was a good one: he started it asleep in bed with us, relocated to a sunny window sill, came back to bed for a big cuddle, had a nice breakfast, sat outside in the sun & got to see a squirrel. We were out – a rare day at the office – but as far as we can tell, he was on his cushion (he loved cushions) in the sunny bay window when he got sick then moved upstairs to bed before his legs gave way. I wish we’d been here but there would still have been nothing we could do.

We buried him this morning. He hadn’t been in this house long enough to acquire a favourite spot but we buried him near the beck. It was the heaviest 5 kilograms I’ve ever lifted.

We’re going to miss that little boy a lot.

3BT – musty, dusty, surreal, feral, exploration

1. My fingers smell of old, dried glue.

2. A circle of matte green-grey shoots have appeared in the garden. Only time will tell what they’ll be.

3. As I leave the theatre, a woman is holding a fake hand prop in her arms like a sleeping baby.

4. Carbon spot it first: a fox running down the road outside our house – the first we’ve seen here. We watch it until it disappears back into the woods.

5. The cats decide that 10pm on a chilly January evening is the ideal time to explore the front of the house. Carbon runs a beat across the empty recycling bins then climbs a tree; Carla explores the street and the gardens across the road; and Boron, manic-eyed Boron, celebrates every new outside discovery by racing back into the house to check everything’s alright in there. I stand under the street light and watch it all.