slowly on

Hm. Yes. Well.
Things have been a little bumpy over the past few months, I'll have to admit. What with work and various other things, it was sometimes eleven o'clock at night before I sat down to do anything for myself and then I was working through to one o'clock in the morning, often rather frantically, to get things done. Then getting up again at half past six to get ready for work.
Then I was given some evening jobs to do - not especially late, but they meant I was getting home around eight and not getting any time to myself until midnight or so, and it started to take its toll. I started nodding off at work and wandering around in a fog. Things probably weren't helped by the fact that I was getting a little too fond of the booze, to the tune of about half a bottle of Scotch a night. One night I looked at everything I had to do and I thought, `Bugger it,' and went to bed instead. And I did that the next night. And the night after that. I did manage to keep in touch with things through Facebook, although mostly as a form of displacement activity while I was at work.
I have a friend to whom something similar happened while he was at university and he thinks I had a bit of a brush with nervous collapse. I'm not sure about that, but things did get on top of me all of a sudden, which was scary and not nice. I don't think it was depression, because depression is a terrible thing and all I did was kind of slump, but something did go wrong in my head for a while.
It's odd the way things work out. A month ago I slipped and fell in the kitchen and tore a ligament in my knee, and ever since I've been at home on crutches. The first week I lay in bed, zonked out on painkillers and mostly asleep, and ever since I've been resting. Which it turns out I really needed. I've also managed to go some distance towards drying out, which has been quite difficult. I'm still having the odd nightcap, but hopefully the mad drinking is over. As usual, God poisons his gifts, because without a drink I now seem quite unable to write.
I know I still have stuff to do, but I'm kind of picking up sticks at the moment. Bear with me.
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in which i go aht west

I don't get out to West London for work very often. Partly because it's a drag to get there and back from the office, and partly because there isn't very much `there' there. I did recently do a piece for the London Diary about the fiftieth birthday of the Chiswick Flyover, but I cobbled it together from published sources and what I've seen from the car. You'd be surprised at how much journalism is done by remote control these days.
The one place in West London I seem to go to quite a lot is the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, mainly because half the office seems to be on their mailing list and every time they issue a press release I get multiple emails of the same release tagged with the words `Something for the Diary, Dave?' Mostly, I ignore them, but I got one a couple of weeks ago that tickled my curiosity, and to find out about it you'll have to look behind the cut because Collapse )
kuron 2


I just want to say many thanks to everyone for their best wishes; it really is very kind of you all. Things have been quite strange here since last weekend. He'd been with us for the best part of ten years, and I keep expecting to hear him howling for something or other, or find him sitting on the bed in the morning. It's still hard to say how Dougal and Kasia are taking it. Kuron and Dougal came to us together - they were presents bought for the daughter of one of Bogna's co-workers by her boyfriend, and when the couple split up the kittens went home with her. Her father didn't like cats at all, and we rescued them, so Dougal and Kuron had been together for a long time. However, when we got Kasia a few years ago Dougal became utterly infatuated with her and pretty much abandoned Kuron. He seems a little down at the moment, but we might just be over-reacting. Kasia shows no sign of realising Kuron's gone.
One rather touching thing happened yesterday. We called the Royal Veterinary College to let them know he'd gone, and yesterday we got a condolence card from his doctor, a proper handwritten card saying how sad he was to hear of Kuron's death. They really are brilliant people up there.
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sad kitteh

lionel davidson

Most of you will probably never have heard of Lionel Davidson, who died a few days ago aged 87, and that's a shame, because he was an absolutely cracking writer. His last novel, Kolymsky Heights, is far and away one of the best thrillers I've ever read. It seems to me that, though his fans and the critics were well-aware of his considerable strengths as a writer, he never received the success and public acclaim he deserved. But he was very, very, very good.
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another dispatch from the islands of lost feet

After quite a while without any activity, it seems that things are jumping again on the Sneaker Coast, with another disarticulated foot being found in a sneaker on a beach in British Columbia. This makes seven, one of which has been identified and four of which have been matched up into two pairs. The Telegraph covered this most recent discovery, and miscounted, saying the latest foot is the eighth. It seems, though, that this is not over yet.
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Honey Badger

rotten boroughs

I'd like you to imagine for a moment, if you will, that you work for a company that makes left-handed blivets. It's a big company and you've been there quite a while and you've risen to management level.
You've been scrupulously careful with your taxes all the time you've been with BlivetCorp. You've stayed within the rules the whole time. Of course, you're allowed to claim various business expenses against tax, but when you've done that you've always checked first with the company accountant and, if necessary, with HM Revenue & Customs. You did that when you bought your new three-piece suite. Now and again your job requires you to entertain the CEOs of blivet-buying firms, and your old sofa and armchairs are getting shabby and don't give a very good impression, so you bought new ones. One of your fellow managers told you that you could claim this as a taxable expense and you checked with the company accountant and found, yes, you could. So you did.
And then one day a newspaper - let's call it the Daily Telegraph, just for argument's sake - gets hold of the tax details of all of BlivetCorp's employees and publishes them, and your cosy little world comes down around your ears.
The details show everything you and your fellow Bliveters have ever claimed for. Down to postage stamps and pairs of socks - all of them allowable under the advice given by the company accountant. Some Bliviters, though, have sailed very close to the wind indeed, and one - let's call him Derek Conway, just for argument's sake - has really been taking the piss.
The other media pick up the story. The papers are full of op-ed pieces, the news programmes run endless commentator interviews. BLIVET BASTARDS, run the headlines.
There's never a good time to find yourself in the court of Public Opinion, partly because it's not a court which ever acquits - even if you're lucky, the best you can hope for is that it eventually forgets you - but this is a particularly bad moment. After the banking thing the public aren't in the mood to forgive people who seem to be getting something for nothing.
BlivetCorp attempts a damage limitation exercise, which goes hugely wrong. Senior management are sent onto the news programmes to put the company's side and are eviscerated by interviewers. The line about sticking to the rules is seen as a mealy-mouthed evasion. Yes, the commentators say, the Blivet Bastards stuck to the rules. But they didn't stick to the moral rules.
BlivetCorp bring in an outsider auditor, whose report demands that all employees found to have broken the moral rules have to pay back what they've claimed. Not just for last year, but for the last twenty years.
Your new three-piece suite, which you bought in order to do your job better and claimed against tax as a business expense, is held up for public ridicule. Eggs and flour are thrown at your house. Your car is vandalised. Your kids are bullied at school.
You find yourself sent to appear on Question Time, where you're booed almost the whole time and you wind up telling the nation that you're a disgrace and you don't deserve promotion.
Which is what, with a few bits of artistic licence, has been happening to our MPs. And I've had enough.

God only knows I'm no apologist for British MPs, but it seems to me that the expenses affair has gone far too far now. It's gone beyond simply punishing those who milked the system and turned into an exercise in humiliating the entire political class. You know things have gone too far when Ming Campbell - Ming Campbell, for Christ's sake, a man of enormous probity - is booed on Question Time because he claimed for a toilet brush.
The Kelly Report, which is due to be released next week but has already been leaked, seems to have abandoned a measured response in favour of being flamboyantly punitive.
I'm also tired of hearing the phrase `they still don't get it' when MPs continue to state - completely accurately - that they stayed within the rules. It seems to me that it's the commentators who `don't get it.' Ming Campbell was allowed to claim for that toilet brush. The evil concoction of bile and middle-class envy that is Littlejohn describes it as a `mealy-mouthed justification'. For the handful - and I don't doubt it is only a handful - of MPs who knowingly abused the system for their own advancement, it is a justification. But for the rest, it's the honest truth. They stuck within what they were allowed to claim. The problem is that the public - with the media at their head carrying flaming torches and sharp agricultural implements - don't think they deserved to claim these things.

This witch hunt has got to stop. Punish the worst offenders. Take them to court, if they've broken the law. Revamp the rules, but do it sensibly rather than with an eye on being seen to bitch-slap the British political classes. Enough, already.
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sad kitteh

kuron - 1997-2009

Kuron didn't make it, I'm afraid.
At his last blood test, his numbers were all down a fraction, but not disastrously so and we reasoned that, this not being an exact science, now we had the anaemia under control they'd sort of oscillate between too low and low-normal. We weren't too concerned; we felt we were finally on top of things.
The one concern was that he kept losing weight, although a couple of weeks ago he'd actually put a few grammes on. Then his weight nosedived again and the hospital asked us to take him to the vet and have him weighed and then they were going to admit him and try some kind of enzyme treatment.
He started the week pretty well, but he started to get a bit wobbly on Wednesday evening. Thursday, he didn't want to eat. Bogna took him to the vet's to be weighed and afterwards I gave him a syringe of recovery pate and he settled down for the night. Sometime around four in the morning, he was howling about something and Bogna came down and put him into his cat-bed.
Friday morning I tried to give him some more pate and he wasn't interested. He seemed kind of out of it and very wobbly and I put him on the cat-bed on top of the bed, surrounded by puppy-training pads because his new favourite place to pee was at the bottom of the bed, and went to work.
When I came home in the evening he couldn't stand up and his balance had gone. He just lay in the cat-bed and miaowed a little. I tried to give him a little pate, but he didn't even open his mouth. His ears were very cold, and as the evening went on he seemed to get colder and colder.
He got a lot of cuddles on Friday night, although I'm not sure he knew what was going on. Bogna and I sat and held him and stroked him, and then we put him in the cat-bed and wrapped him up and he just lay there and I sat here beside him and talked to him and about twenty past one he sort of sneezed a couple of times and was gone.
We had, as you know, prepared for this, but it was still a raw time and we didn't get to bed until about four in the morning. We left him in the cat-bed and closed the bedroom door so the other two cats wouldn't see him and be upset, and when Bogna got back from work on Saturday we took Kuron to the vet, who will pass him on to a pet crematorium out in Cambridgeshire, where his ashes will be scattered.
He could be an absolute pain in the arse, one of those high-maintenance cats who don't really want anything apart from attention. He didn't run around and play - the best he did was a high-speed head-down walk - although he did like to knock a ball of silver foil down the stairs and then have you throw it back up to him and he didn't care how tired you were of doing that. Catnip had no effect on him at all, but he derived great joy from howling for no discernible reason until he got us out of bed in the wee small hours. He was quirky and eccentric and rather magnificent and we're better for having known him and poorer for his passing. Here he is in better times.

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spotted in the wild...

A small rumour of Under The Roses, resplendent in their finery, at The Vortex Of The Weird. Selkie calls it The Most Beautiful Book In The World. And she's right.

'Nuff said.
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