... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Monday 30 March 2020

Bag of Tricks

I was so busy not blogging last autumn that I think I overlooked introducing my new feline friend.
This is Bellatrix, and she came from Chesterfield Cats' Protection. I got her in early October and she celebrated her first birthday (more or less accurate to within a month or so) at Hallowe'en.

She's called Bellatrix because ... the first cat I visited was called Annabelle, and then I went to see another one called Callie. Callie had been in a foster home for ages because of the age-old thing of black cats being less popular. At one point I thought I might have them both, and then they would have been called Bellatrix and Callisto (of course). But when I decided just to have the gentle, playful little black one, Bellatrix just fitted her best.
She's very well behaved, very friendly and really no trouble at all. As you can see, she enjoys helping me with work.

Shortly after I got her, I had a cat flap fitted in my new back door (why I needed a new back door is another story, but I was without an opening one for six weeks, occasioning not least a major rearrangement of the furniture in the front room). But then it was winter and cold and dark, and she didn't seem that bothered about going outside, so the cat flap stayed locked. It's only this last couple of weeks, when the weather has been nice and I've been around that she's finally started to go outside.
And it turns out that she's quite a bold and agile little thing. Not only did she get up on the roof of the extension (or offshot, as it's known in these parts) at the level of the upstairs window, she then proceeded to climb in the window, walk down the stairs, and go back out the catflap.

I very much doubt she'll come boating like the irrepressible, irreplaceable, Willow - I have a reciprocal cat care arrangement with my neighbour round the corner. It is, though, rather nice to have a cat back in my life, having been without one for seven years, for the first time ever since the age of ten.

I dare say you'll be seeing more of Bellatrix - although it is hard to get a decent photo of her.

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Book binging

I never used to re-read books. My leisure reading of choice is detective novels, so there never seemed any point, once I knwe who done it.

Then I discovered Harry Bingham's Fiona Griffiths books (six so far), and they were so good I just had to re-read them. I think I read the fifth one first, and the first one last, and then went back and read the whole lot again. Originally borrowing them from the library, I loved them so much that I bought copies. Second hand, via Abe Books, they cost three or four pounds each, including postage.

I realised that I could enjoy re-reading. I often forgot who'd done it anyway, but even if not, that just added a new dimension. I found and appreciated so much more richness on a second reading. So I decided to do the same with another of my favourite series, Elly Griffith's Ruth Galloway books. After Fiona Griffiths, Ruth Galloway must be one of my favourite heroines, middle aged and overweight, a single parent with a very unrequited love life - and an academic as well! There are twelve of these, so I bought eleven second hand, read through them in order from start to finish, and then forked out a tenner for the twelfth and latest in hardback. Again, it was a brilliant in-depth escape into another world, and reading each book as a chapter of a ten year story gave each one a context that it didn't have on its own.

So I finished The Lantern Men last night and have now (over breakfast) embarked on my most ambitious box set yet - Christopher Fowler's Bryant and May series. There are fourteen of these, and I have acquired the first twelve for a little over £40 in total. Sad, funny and surreal, but always with a meticulously plotted mystery at their heart, these should make perfect reading for the next few weeks.

Saturday 21 March 2020

Why you need an autistic person at a time like this

1. We won't try to shake hands, hug or kiss you. Ever.
And now you won't do it to us either. There's a silver lining, right there.

2. Self-isolation? Bring it on!
Whilst using the government's language of 'self-isolation' and 'social distancing' makes me really uncomfortable for reasons I don't even begin to understand, actually doing it - well, there's nothing that comes more naturally.

3. We already have a stockpile
Built up over months or years rather than in a locust swarm on Tescos, and carefully curated and rotated. Some of us have probably had ours since the Cold War. So we don't need to panic buy and there's that little bit more for everyone else.

4. That famous lack of empathy?
Means we won't absorb other people's anxieties and panic, so we'll be the ones keeping calm and carrying on (with those all-important routines) whilst still being kind and supportive, because we know that's the right thing to do.

5. We follow the rules just because they're the rules
Yeah, well, maybe that one doesn't apply to me. But a lot of us do. And if we have comorbid OCD, we're already on it with the handwashing, too.

6. We're already geared up for working at home
Computer? Check. Broadband? Check. VPN? Already set up. Just need to rearrange the books for my videoconferencing backdrop.

7. You need someone to draw up tables and spreadsheets
To make contingency plans and do options appraisals and impose order on chaos. We have a lot of practice at this.

8. We are used to not being able to cope with change and uncertainty
Which puts us at a distinct advantage when no one else can cope with it either. Welcome to my world.

Disclaimers: Yes, I know that not all of this applies to all (or possibly any) autistic people. Number 5 doesn't apply to me, for example. Yes, I know it's a serious matter, but I can guarantee that no one will die as a direct result of you laughing a little bit (as long as you do it into a tissue). Yes, I know there are probably much better and funnier versions of this all over the internet, but I am self-isolating from the media so as to avoid being infected with panic and despair (about civil liberties rather than health). Yes, there are probably more examples - can we get it up to ten?

Sunday 8 March 2020

So farewell then ...

Rag Rug Number 1:  November 4th 2006 - March 7th 2020
 Jim was up this weekend - we were meant to be going to the HNBC AGM, but it was cancelled on account of the Plague. No such timidity for the Friends of Naburn - we held our AGM last Wednesday. In my dining room. But more anon on the plucky Friends of Naburn.

Anyway, Jim and I went over to Alvecote to check on Chertsey, with some trepidation, given what the weather has been like. The tippet and one of the topcloths had blown off a bit - the strings had loosened and come adrift in places, but the scaffolding bungees had held, so nothing was lost. The translucent cloths underneath stayed in place, so the only water getting into the hold was via the small holes where the translucents rub on the top plank. Not much damage there then, and in fact we just removed the loose topcloth completely and have left it at that for now.

A slightly nasty surprise awaited in the back cabin however. The bullseye has always been inclined to leak slightly, and although I left an inverted bowl over it, a fair bit of water has clearly still got in, and dripped straight down onto the rag rug which I rather foolishly left on the floor. This, rather in the manner of growing mustard and cress on a damp flannel, had sprouted some very impressive fungus, which unfortunately (perhaps) I was too horrified to photograph. About half the rug was covered in white cotton wool, with some delicate brown fractals sprouting in the middle. My first thought - and I still think this might be the case - was that it looked (and smelt) very much like dry rot. I bundled the rug into a stout plastic sack and with shocking lack of ceremony deposited it in the rubbish skip.

The floor underneath was wet, and a bit slimy, but the fungus didn't seem to have got a hold - there were none of the tell-tale tentacles of dry rot, but maybe it just hadn't quite got round to it (or needed to make the effort) yet. We took up all the floors and brought them back to Sheffield for a good dollop of Five Star, and next time I'm over there I'll do the surrounding woodwork - although that seemed to have stayed dry. In good news, under the floor was completely dry.

So it's a sad farewell to the rug. This was the first rag rug I ever made, and the best.  It was over thirteen years old, and survived being washed, twice (though latterly I stopped bothering). It wasn't just for decoration but did a sterling job over the years of trapping dirt (and fungus). My sister (1969-2012) helped make it. Others have come and gone over the years (including the only other one that was nearly as good, which I gave away as a present) but Chertsey is now rugless. Rag is harder to come by (at reasonable - i.e. practically no - cost) in these post jumble sale days, and anyway, I have a blanket to finish crocheting first.