Saturday, 16 April 2011



October 7th 2000 – April 5th 2011

Maggie facts;

Maggie didn’t mew.  She squeaked.  Like a little mouse.

She never scoffed her food like her brother.  She would take a mouthful, turn her head away from her bowl, and nibble delicately.

When she walked, she wiggled.

When she ran, she bounced as if on air cushioned soles.

She was named after my aunt, even though my aunt is not a cat and has no idea that one was named after her.

She could leap onto high surfaces like a prima ballerina.  Her grace was astonishing.

If you held your hand over her head, she would stand upright on her back legs and nuzzle your palm with her cheeks and whiskers.

She could hold her own against a brother twice her size.

Her favourite things were walking (illegally) on the kitchen surfaces and sitting (illegally) on the flat top of the oven, especially if it had just been on and was nice and warm and toastie.  I asked her not to do this, but she decided to ignore me.  As you can see, from the picture above.

She would climb onto your shoulder, grip your collar, and sit there like Long John Silver’s parrot, surveying the world below as you walked her around the room.

She could deliver a crushing look of disdain if the mood took her.

On her first day in her new home, she was straight out of the cat box exploring, whilst her big brother cowered behind her.

When play fighting she didn’t use her claws, just her soft pads.

She would sit by the window on the wireless router because it was warm, and she could see you when you got back from work. 

She broke the router. 

When she was curious or intrigued by something, her eyes would grow so wide in her tiny little head that SmallCat would call her Saucer Eyes.

She had a number of other names – Maggie, Mags, Madge, Marge, Magaluf, Margils, Margils of Society, Living on the Margils of Society, Little Lady.  She answered to them all, obviously – she wouldn’t want to miss out on anything after all.

She liked eating flowers.  I told her not to do this, but she decided to ignore me.

She became ill after christmas, and died just as the flowers started to blossom.


She is buried in the back garden, in the brown blanket she is kneading in the picture, which was taken the day before she died.   

There are forget-me-nots and catmint where she lies, not that we would ever forget her, but the catmint might come in handy.

She was the gentlest, sweetest natured cat we have ever known.

We miss her.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Guillotine Gaffe

Look, we wanted some neck of lamb, right?  And we knew the word for lamb.  And we were in Bayeux, and there was a butcher close to the war museum, so we went in to get our dinner for the evening. 

Unfortunately, there were about, oh, I dunno, at least SEVERAL different cuts of lamb in the window and we hadn’t the faintest idea which one was neck.  We thought we knew, but it could have been collar and that would have been a DISASTER.

So MrCat, being the designated French conversationalist on our trip, was pushed forward through the door.  There were three or four customers in there and, as luck would have it, they were all French (wouldn’t you know it!).

“Bonjour”, said the butcher (that’s French, that is.  It means “hello”. I am FLUENT, me).

“Agneau” said MrCat, who had “I AM ENGLISH” written all over him.  The shop went silent and I swear the butcher had his hand raised with the meat cleaver in it, expectantly, like something out of Delicatessen.  (It is quite possible, however, that I’m saying this for dramatic effect and it bears no relation to the truth.  That’s for you to decide).

Anyway, MrCat gathered himself to make his point and at that moment, for reasons I cannot explain,  I inexplicably did this chopping motion with my hand across my neck.

What I was trying to say was “neck cut”, but I realise now that it could have been misinterpreted as some typical English mockery of La Revolution, and that unspeakable unpleasantness with Madame Guillotine, and Robespierre and Desmoulins and all that wig wearing nonsense and lace cuffs.  And heads rolling down the Place de la Revolution, pursued by mad Gallic personages.

Why does my entire life always come round to lace cuffs and fops?And in this case, a potential diplomatic incident which could have totally destroyed Anglo-French relations.

Anyway, the butcher had the good manners to smile, and gave us a splendid dinner, and for what it’s worth I would have supported La Revolution although I draw the line at beheading.

To be honest, I draw the line at mild punching.  Actually, make that a very hard stare and a look of disappointment.

In our next installment we shall verily expounde on the diverse variety of war memorials and suchlike, with a brief detour to Honfleur which is a town very pleasing on the eye, but well packed with tourists, for shame!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Life’s Rich Patisserie – Bayeux Pt I

No, no, I mean tapestry, sorry.

Bayeux was great. Abso-bl**dy-lutely great. And we didn't forget the sandwiches this time, which made it even greater. Mighty, in fact.

When I was a wee slip of a girl, an entire academic year was taken up in a tutorial room with lovely Mr Hodges and slightly less lovely (borderline insane if you ask me) Dr Edwards. Lovely Mr Hodges was everything a stereotypical history lecturer is supposed to be - quiet, comforting, a bit sleepy, cuddly like a small bear (large bear in his case, but never mind). He also wore clogs. There you go.

Dr Edwards used to run about at high speed and tell us off. On one memorable occasion he stopped a lecture after 5 minutes and told us all to get out, just GET OUT, I REFUSE to continue this lecture because not one of you has bothered to do your assignment (I had, as it happens, but he wouldn't listen and anyway, the prospect of an afternoon off made it not worth arguing the toss about).


You’re not allowed to take pictures of the tapestry, so here is some wool in a shop in Bayeux

The point is (there is one, yes), that both of these intellectual giants mentioned the Bayeux Tapestry with tedious frequency as a primary source to the point where we'd all doze off at the mere mention and wish to goodness that Queen Matilda had never gone to needlework classes, or had stuck to embroidering sequinned pants (as mentioned in another post). But I was so wrong.

The tapestry "in person" is awesome. You can get a wee bit blase if you've spent your life looking at history things, but I could have spent all day in there. Which would have gone down like a lead balloon as it would have caused a pile up and people would have either fallen over in a heap, or pushed me headfirst out the exit. It's a bit like seeing the Crown Jewels in the Tower, you have to move along and try not to hold everyone up.


Here is a little sainted person in a church in Bayeux. Gasp in awe at yet MORE ARCHES!

Best of all, the audio tour was most definitely not rubbish. No made up nonsense about shiny swords, Matilda's lingerie or what William had for breakfast. Not unless these things were actually on the tapestry before your very eyes. Just facts. FACTS FACTS FACTS. Sparkly facts. You walk along, each panel is numbered, and the beautiful RADA trained voice in your ear tells you what's going on in each segment. Perfect.

And the best bit? The smiley horses. I loved the smiley horses. In order to highlight the fact that everyone, even the animals, were convinced by the rightness of William's invasion expedition, the industrious tapestry ladies sewed in a whole boatload of hooved characters, grinning away as their ship took them to certain death, or at the very least a very tiring and uncomfortable afternoon near Hastings with no time for oat breaks. And there they were - cartoon horses, embroidered centuries before, someone taking the time and trouble to give them smiles which are still visible to us all in 2010. Did the seamstresses all laugh about it at the time? Was it a private joke? Was it done to amuse a child? Did someone tell them to do it to impress the Duke and upset the Saxons, or was someone trying out a new stitch? I don't know, but it was beautiful. Just...beautiful.

And that, my friends, is why I love history. It is real and it is human and it is about people who are the same as us, just with longer frocks and less bandwidth.

Imagine getting that kind of finish on a garment from Primark? I don't think so, ladies.

In our next installment we really will (yes, verily and trulye) visit the French butcher that we didn’t have time to scribe about this time because we are verily disorganised and in a bit of ye olde rush.

Monday, 6 September 2010


I have been on holiday (yes, again.  It doesn't happen often so don't begrudge me).  I come back and what do I find?  A dead phone line and no internet connection.  And there I was, ready and eager, nay GAGGING, to update you on the rest of my highly exciting cake tour of Normandy.

I tried to build my own modem using a tin can, a selection of coloured strings, some glue and a pair of net curtains but, as you can imagine, this isn't really working out. I'm not terribly good at electronics.  Using a mobile phone to blog will only make me angry, mainly because my mobile was designed by Satan himself for the sole purpose of annoying me.  So best wait for the engineer to call, whenever that might be.

I shall sulk in the meantime.  You see if I don't.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Normandy Day III – Mont St Michel

Well, this day started as an utter, utter disaster.  In fact, it was possibly one of the WORST days of my ENTIRE LIFE!

We forgot the sandwiches.

Even now, the memory makes me shudder.  We also forgot our cameras as they were both in my rucksack – WITH THE SANDWICHES – and the rucksack was not in the car with us, but on the kitchen table in the Gite, severalty billion miles away.

Much slapping of palms on foreheads followed, but technology being what it is, we had our mobile phones.  And in France, you can always find food.

msm5 Never mind the monastery – where’s the flippin’ cake shop!

Mont St Michel is mighty fine.  It’s a veritable layer of historical slices, like an angel cake (oh Lord, the food trauma is still with me).  From the Norman arches to the 18th Century facade, from the crypt to the cloisters – it is a beautiful, architecturally intricate building.  You would be hard pushed not to find something to appeal.

In a post from many months ago I pointed out (quite correctly, as it happens) that 18th Century history is a complete and utter waste of time, so there are no pictures of the main doors into the monastery. This is because they were no doubt built by bewigged fops and powdered dandies, the sort of wasters who totally failed to turn up and show their support at the Battle of Culloden in 1745 and thus left England in the hands of the wicked Hanoverians. So I have NO TIME FOR THEIR ORNATE DOORS!  I give you, instead, the rather beautiful arches of a previous (and far more interesting) era of history.


I am a Norman Arch and I don’t care who knows it.

And here is St Michael, who seems to be in something of a foul temper.  He has obviously just realised that St Gabriel has raided his rucksack and run off with his sandwiches.  We’ve all been there, believe me.

msm6 I’d put brie in and everything.

For my next blogging installment, I shall describe the lovely and picturesque town of Bayeux, the treasures of the tapesterie, an encounter at the butcher which produced much mirthe and gaiety with the local inhabitants, and a thought provoking and interesting diversion at the war museum.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Please do not put knitting needles in your eyes

Normandy Day Two – Caen.

Caen is lovely.  Really, it is.  You’d never know it was horribly destroyed during WWII because it looks “just so”.  There are the obvious things, like the Norman churches and castle, but aside from that it’s pretty and elegant anyway.  It all fits, and it is all lovely.

But let’s get something out of the way first.  I’m on holiday, right?  And this woman I don’t even know has said that she likes Orangina.  I have a holiday to enjoy here, things to see, people to eat, and what do I do?  I take a photograph of a sexually provocative zebra wearing a swimming costume and drinking from a bottle of Orangina.  I do this because Silverpebble – as I’ve said, a woman I’ve never met – has said that she likes that particular drink.  BLOGGING MAKES YOU DO DEMENTED THINGS. 


How many levels of wrong is this?  Five?  Six?  I’d say about twenty at the very least.

These things are all over the place.  If it’s not a zebra, it’s an antelope, a polar bear or a disgruntled gnu.  Truly I say to you – the French are bonkers.

Their ancestors, however, knew how to build.  My goodness, didn’t they just.


This is Abbeye Aux Hommes, where that big, fat dingbat William the Conqueror is buried.  Or rather, where his femur is buried.  Amazing that the only thing left of him is a slender bone, considering the fact that he literally exploded when they tried to ram him into the space reserved for his cadaver.  I love an exploding monarch.  Henry VIII exploded as well.  It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, really.


And here is Abbeye Aux Dames where Matilda (remember her?  She of the lovely silver frock, damask corset, emerald encrusted knickers, ruby studded bra and basalt lined 15 denier tights), is buried.  Yes, that’s Matilda, the poor woman forced to marry said big, fat dingbat.  For that selfless act alone she should have a massive church with flashing lights over the bell towers.  But wouldn’t you know it?  She gets a smaller church than he does.  And yet – I prefer hers.  The simplicity and clean lines are less spectacular, but there’s a quietness and calmness about her church which I preferred.


In between these two ecclesiastical delights, we visited the Chateaux where, to my absolute joy, we encountered a man wearing a T-Shirt bearing the legend “I STILL HATE THATCHER”.  Well, frankly, had I not been carrying a camera and a bottle of water, I’d have shaken him firmly by the paw.  But perhaps that’s just me and most normal people have let that one go, moved on, dispensed with any traces of bitterness, gnrrrrrrr…….

Oh, hang on, I forgot the food.  After we left the Abbeye Aux Hommes we ate some delicious sandwiches that MrCat had prepared.  For those of you interested in these things they contained brie and rosette, and, in my case, traces of cucumber.  The bread had been bought fresh that morning from our local boulangerie.  I say OUR local boulangerie but it was MrCat who got up early, went down there and purchased the goods (along with the obligatory pastries), so in truth it was HIS boulangerie, not mine.  But never let it be said that I let facts get in the way of a good sandwich.  We ate them on the side of a busy road, paying no heed to the glances we received.

In the grounds of the Castle, there is an art display.  Several rather disconcerting sculptures were poised on tall wooden poles and suspended over the art gallery.  It was only when you got close that you realised they’d been designed by a LUNATIC!

I mean, what on earth is going on here, I ask you?


To my eyes, that is a pig with a man’s head.  Pardon?  I said, PARDON?  And it’s no good saying it looks a bit like something by Bosch (whom I like, by the way).  That simply makes it more, not less, demented.

And if you WILL insist on doing Fair Isle with small knitting needles then what do you expect?


Either read the pattern more closely or use a knitting machine, I say.

Saturday, 31 July 2010


If I was clever and literary, I could do a fancy travelogue, but since I am neither, you’ll get pictures, a few words and be grateful for it (as my mother would say).

We stayed in a little village called Clinchamps-sur-Orne, notable for it’s rather excellent boulangerie, which MrCat visited every morning to provide me with numerous delicacies while I waited in bed for my tea and whatever cake it was he brought back. Which makes me sound like some kind of hideous Queen Bee.  Urgh.

Anyway, our first excursion was on the Sunday after our arrival.  We trekked up to Falaise, the birthplace of William of Conqueror, a man I studied at GREAT AND PAINFUL LENGTH as an undergraduate and for whom I developed an utter loathing surpassed only by my dislike of pineapples.


Hi, my name’s Matilda, and as you can see, I am wearing a lovely gown

Things to note and of which I am proud.

1.  I did not bore MrCat with history.

That is the only thing to note of which I am proud.  But that’s pretty good going, since I’m a notorious history bore.  Especially since I had to bite my tongue throughout the rather fatuous audio tour which consisted of illuminating comments such as “Matilda wore a lovely gown and had some pearls in her hair”, while I stood there thinking “yes, yes, but when was the castle built, what materials did they use and – hang on a minute, who CARES if Matilda had a lovely gown, what on earth does that have to do with the price of fromage and it’s impact on the economic development of Norman England and, more to the point, how do we KNOW it was lovely?  Name your sources, or keep your silence, fools”.


View from the donjon of Falaise

The castle has been seriously renovated, with a new glass floor and some rather nice, albeit somewhat pointless, giant sized chess pieces which look like they were made from the origami kit you bought from your local craft shop and actually bothered to open.


Line up your Audio Cassette and Fire at Will – drawing from the exhibition at Falaise

Don’t be put off by this cynicism.  I get a bit killy when history is dumbed down and in a way I was interested to see that the French are as bad as the English for this kind of foolishness.  Falaise itself is lovely, there is some beautiful architecture, lovely churches and at least TWO boulangeries (in case you’re interested we bought a giant sized apricot pastry).  A very pretty place to sit in a town square and while away a half an hour with a beer and a cafe au lait.  And the castle is magnificent.  Ignore me.  I’m just playing it for laughs.

For my next blogging installment, I shall describe many and varied events in the City of Caen, including a trip to the burial place of William the Conqueror, and diverse and colourful passages regarding sculptings of a very interesting and unusual nature.