The Art of Kitty Maintenance…

Such temperate palms doth pitter like rain—

Our misery is their entertainment…

I’ll forgo the usual introduction and instead reproduce a cartoon I found in the hope that it will at least seem to justify my labours as much to you, as it does to me. And of course, make them appear all the more sane: kitty maintainanceWith the exception of a few pursuits I could be pressed to lay a hand on without overly taxing myself, I can honestly say that owning a cat is one of the trickiest. The word itself: pursuit, perhaps sums up the very relationship we have with our feline friends better than any other. Let me assure you, I’m in no way making allusions to that sound they make when they’d like to make us think we are causing them botherations I am deadly serious. The word pursuit is perfect; implies a chase and more often than not, it is we who are doing the chasing.

I like to think they prefer it this way, because no matter which way you look at it, there is an inevitable run around that occurs from day to day which can leave you wondering where your next breath will come from. This is something cats consider beneath themselves, for they are animals which have indifference hard-wired into them; they are the same creatures which can sleep for three days then fall forty feet onto solid ground and land gracefully: panting therefore is something they gaze upon with a kind of indignation reserved for the owners of lesser pets. I’ve little doubt that in their minds, such behaviour would no doubt spoil their whole aesthetic. It inevitably comes down to the simple question: who owns whom? For it’s a simple truth that, as much as we would like to believe otherwise: it’s thems which does the owning which unnaturally brings us full circle to the original point of pursuit

Cats need to be tackled— something easier written than done, but there you have it. There is no other way of putting it: their outward gaze may be one of calm, knightly almost but underneath beats an epicentre of cruelty and uncompromise. This is something I have noticed over the years and despite the odd exceptions— tackling gets you respect. It also allows you to retain a little dignity, once you realise any hope of clinging onto all of it is sadly unrealistic.

Cats operate on an entirely different biological clock you see, but this is all part of their tactic to confuse and befuddle their owners. They’re the peace-time equivalent of P.O.W.s wanting to get home by first irritating their captors. Autumn, since she is my case-study, has long since been banned from watching anything that might encourage behaviour of an overly irritating manner, because like many of her kind, she doesn’t need any.

She has just the three settings:

  • Sleep

  • Play

  • Eat

Sleep time for cats is a curious affair. They can be in a vegetative state for hours, be curled still and dreaming of catching sparrows and offering them as gifts and still become alive at a moments notice to create havoc and make us cry. This is where they differ from us. We wake up and generally plod about and walk into things for a few minutes, whilst spending the next few hours trying to remember who we are.

It’s also the time they boast the ability to operate in all three states simultaneously. When they sleep they dream; when they dream, they are invariably thinking about food. When they want food they think it’s cute to get our attention; firstly by playing and then by making the most unremitting sound imaginable: some of them not dissimilar to a crying baby. This is where they differ from dogs, who haven’t the ability to produce more than a half dozen utterances; whereas cats have a resonating chamber granting the them powers of production over something in the region of a hundred-odd noises designed to register a frown, wake the dead or put you off whatever it was you were doing at any time of the day or night.

Luckily, cats will sleep on average, a full twenty hours a day if for no other reason, so they can be fresh to disturb their ‘owners’ whenever they damn well please. When they are not however, they are hunting lap and don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an act of love. Altruism and cats do not mix: it’s because your lap is warmer than the floor, or invariably the chair or bed it was sleeping on. You only have to ask yourself how many times you’ve left your chair only to return and find a cat’s curled up or contorted on it sporting a big grin as though born there… It’s all part of cats’ sleep time.

Play time is next, and there is only one lesson here to be learnt. Cats play when they want to play: Period… There are no exceptions. Autumn for instance barely moves. She does occasionally stretch and sigh; looks good doing it too; and though she’d never dream of doing the two simultaneously in case it affected her balance, she rarely plays. A couple of times a day though, usually at about the time she feels she deserves to be rewarded with food, she goes a little do-lally-tat. This is the only time she really ever shows herself up: as much as I worship her little paws, she is perhaps the most ungraceful creature alive. She’s got the art of lazing about and extending her little legs down to a tee; and looking beautiful goes without saying; but her landing, leaping, running and methods of evasion leave a lot to be desired.

So when she’s tear-assing up and down the stairs because a video tape has just tried to bite her; or she’s mistaken the central heating for something unfriendly with that startled look of abject horror in her eyes: she flies— which is all the more remarkable because she’s a bit of a waddler at the best of time; speed her up and her back legs resemble those dwarfed-horses. But when she’s calmed down and realised there is nothing to fear from the crisp packet in the corner, she becomes far more sociable: at least this is what she’ll have you believe.

Being cute means give me attention, and it’s all part of their ‘not to be messed with’ policy. Yes— they play mind-games too. The spasming out they do is an ulterior act, made out for their own ‘peace of mind’ just to have you chase them around the house and just to convince themselves they’re still the ones running the show. When on the face of it, it’s the only running they ever intend to do. This is one of the few times we are in accordance with them why run, when we could be eating. And with hunger, comes the most familiar cry in the cats arsenal. It is easily the most disturbing:

Take me to your feeder

It’s as close a translation as I can manage but yes it’s there to inform us that it’s time to eat: the final piece in the great triumvirate of the kitty universe. It’s also their favourite time of the day, and quite possibly the only time of day they truly make you feel as though all their love is a bit of a sham.

There’s little you can really do to null the emotional trauma they inflict upon us at feeding time, besides preparing a little; and the easiest way to do that, is to be your pet. As hard as it may be; when you hear the thud of a cats’ imperfect landing at three in the morning and wide awake, beckoning you for strokes and companionship to brace the outdoors it’s best to turn the other cheek and instruct it back to bed…

Your success in this instance will be nil and your cat will never tire of repeating herself. She will do her best to trip you up so you fall down the stairs and hurt yourself, and run away feigning fright at the tumultuous racket that ensues but she’ll be back; just about the time you want to hit the sack again pretending she hadn’t just tried to kill you and that she really is your best friend.

She’ll wriggle about and purr and lick and yelp a little if she can be bothered, but deep down she’s thinking only one thing, and that is that ‘you’re an imbecile!’ And when she’s had enough and you’re just about ready to nod off on the downstairs carpet she’ll hop onto all fours, give her head a flick, and ignore you.

This is not letting them know who’s boss. Not that I can really speak I get up two or three times a night when hear Autumn’s ungainly thud on the floor and every time give her exactly what she wants.

But this is where I am taking the sports to a much higher level. I am using her own tactics against her; I play to her strengths at least I believe it to be that way. If she wants love when it’s inhuman to expect it: I won’t play ball when she gets her ‘munching’ face on…

You must be cruel to be kind. Or in the case of felines in general cruel to avoid having misery thrust upon you, since it is their main goal in life.

So just remember: cats are not your friends. Why do you think that they are not mentioned once in the bible? They are sharp and cunning even the thick ones! So play the game by their rules and the two of you can live harmoniously,

If you give them an inch

They’ll own you…

And they say there’s no rest for the wicked…

On Procrastination…

Mrs B once said, when asked what she’d like to read—

I am still about procrastination … but that could be that I am procrastinating on finding another topic!

Needless to say that was in 2004…

548125_10151091945136041_908074081_nStarting is always the hardest part, or is that beginning? Starting begets beginnings I suppose. If only I could get as far as that. Sometimes it’s just too hard.

I had an idea at first— for the beginning, but abandoned it. It wasn’t bad, in fact I quite liked it— the thought of it I mean, but the start is always a thought too many and a beginning too few and I always get the feeling I’ve been overtaken by the thought of having to do more than simply think it. And then I consider it. That’s the best part. What would it’d be without having done it? I pore, and I always convince my self to sleep on it.

This is where all the best things aren’t done. I sometimes pretend to sleep, just to see what doesn’t happen— and I’m mystified when I realise I’m not doing it. I don’t want to you see. Because the way I see it, there’s no point in avoiding something if you cannot sleep; and then sleeping to forget it when you’re only going to wake up with a hint of something you’d neglected to put there. And then it’ll bother you ’til you remember it— because you’d have to. And sometimes it’s just too hard.

It’s like getting back to the beginning again; right where I was going to be when I started it yesterday. Only I couldn’t remember what I wanted to say. It’s not that I was trying too hard; it’s just I recalled the killer word: The ‘E’ word. There should have been two of them in ‘demon’— at least it sounds that way to me. Perhaps they couldn’t’ve been bothered much either that day— and lacked the killer word too.

It was right after that cuppa I’d made after the comfy mock-snooze on the pea-green beanbag I’d been engaged in, that it suddenly dawned on me that I’d forgotten something else. This pleased me a great deal. Had it’ve been lingering— even ever so slightly, I may have been a little miffed; but it had gone. The fact that I could, even started to displease me after a while— but the longer the displease, the weaker the ‘effort’ it required and it killed too little a time— time I never really had anything put aside for anyway. To plan too far ahead in my eyes is to get ahead of one’s self— especially around the eyes, and it’s preferable to hide from these things rather than encourage one’s self to do anything about it. A day doing nothing, is sweeter than a day wondering anything. And a day wondering anywhere is an even greater waste.

They say of some, that they take, ‘one step forward and two steps back’ and I say ‘twaddle!’ Primarily because I like the way the ‘d’s’ sound and feel on the tip of the tongue when you’re overly deliberate with the ‘-le’; and secondly, because anyone worth salt would simply stand still, sit down or remain and just be— exactly where they were. Let’s not split peanuts over the minimum effort debacle, when you can eat the whole nut with none what-so-ever, and still pip the nincompoop by a nose. If only you could be bothered…

If I could only get passed the first bit I’d be fine.

Where was I?

I’ll finish it tomorrow…

Image: something I designed for my classroom

On Furniture…

Moving it, rearranging it, wrinkles, flat-pack-language, fear, stuff, unhelpful phrases, bedrooms, tea & baby elephants…

elephant_swim_07I like my sense of all things random to be ordered, which isn’t to say their appearance always need be. Upheaval and periodic change is an unavoidable constituent of life; and try as I might to slow it down, at some point a good heaving is inevitable. So when it comes,I like it like I like my piles; I like them to develop over time so I don’t notice them at first— and by the time I feel there is just-cause to say something about them— I just do something about them and leave the ‘saying’ to other ‘like’-minded individuals. Preferably those who like that kind of thing.

When I’m informed that my world is going to be ‘transformed’— small, big— it doesn’t matter, naturally, my first thoughts are of my world being heaved-up. Quite how far and in what manner it’s to be thrust is largely irrelevant— what goes up, must come down. I can always sense catastrophe is imminent— and sure enough, the ‘secret vein’i that tells me so, begins to throb wildly.

It just so happens this was one of those times, I felt the vein and sure enough, when I probed further and discovered new furniture was on the way to afford me more space— my nesting-principals began to shudder also. I’m not one for unnecessary wildlife smilies, but I felt like a squirrel might, upon discovering his secret cache of nuts had been eaten. The very idea that ‘stuff’ would have to be moved out and then moved back was dawning slowly upon me, despite being explicitly terrifying, it also had horrific undertones— just for good measure: it multiplies you see: the stuff.

Bedrooms thus, appear to made from the same substance as that famous nanny’s carpet bag. It eats things. And they don’t even have to be your own. It’s ridiculous when you think about it, but there are no known laws or governing principles which adequately describe the phenomena.

But that’s besides the point because it always gets to the point when you’ve got to unload your ‘stuff’ to get at the furniture you’ll be replacing; and find you need two rooms to store it in; and the landing between them; and then there’s the sitting room and the small corner of the kitchen that never seems to be used for anything. And if that’s not enough, it’s round about this time the twitching begins.

However, if you look at it in this way your enthusiasm for it will wan— which is hardly surprising. I don’t even like packing. There is an easy part of course, it’s not all bad— but that’s all over once the delivery finally shows. It’s just shudders from there-in out.

Constructing the new units should’ve be a pleasurable experience. A visceral act allowing me to purge certain irregularities of thought with power tools. It should have, yes. But designers feel obliged to include certain elements in their designs that not only refuse us of our right to purge— but create entirely new ones. This is I’m sure— in the hope that if a paddy or wobbly is thrown during fabrication, it’s thrown in the direction of what it is that’s being put together— so a new one must be bought— and the anger can be spread out indefinitely.

I believe then, that half the battle is delegation. Since you need ideally, three, perhaps four sets of hands to realistically complete one of these tasks without feeling obligated to swear at it or anyone else within range— which on occasion, could mean anywhere in the region of four to five households. I find that knowing what each of the two hands I do have at my disposal are doing at any one time— and more importantly, what they will do— or as is usually the case— what they are supposed to do, is far more important.

Take the slats for the new shelves for instance. They’re supposed to slot into the runners and just stay put long enough to be fixed into place by a screw: They do not, because that would be all to easy. They either all go in first time and behave until you show the drill to them— at which point they become startled and leap out which means hiding the drill from them and starting over; or you have one tricky one that seems to be testing your patience by seeing how far you can be pushed, by refusing to move no matter how hard you seem to; only to allow you to succeed in manoeuvring the awkward one into place at the expense of disturbing all the others. This is when you discover you were being observed— and for quite some for time it seems— struggling.

It is a curious thing, to become suddenly aware that you could have been in a position of smug completion as opposed to a bundle of nerves ready to launch the offending pieces of wood far, far away. Because they always say the same thing: I was frightened to ask…

To that I can contain rational judgement— but I generally tend not to and indulge instead, in a far more resounding ‘bollocks and fuck’, in a pronunciation somewhat scattered and aimed at no-one in particular— but at the same time to anyone close enough to hear it.

It’s at this point I decide to abandon my task and drink tea in the hope of expectorating visions of setting light to people, laughing. But the madness concludes with madness until certain phrases become familiar to the point of over-use:

  • Let me have a look at it…

  • It’s perfectly simple…

  • Surely not…

  • It can’t possibly!

  • Why have they done it like that?

  • Fucking thing!

  • NOOOO!

  • For God’s sake, just leave it alone…

  • I know what I’m doing!

  • Ouch, shit, fuck— bollocks!

  • You do it then…

And so on…

Naturally, to avoid predictability I cut myself eight pieces of cheese to protect me from such a fate— each approximately 5x10x30mm and eat them with the back of a curved knife.

Since the slats had been constructed the day before to form part of the shelves, and the wardrobe had been constructed with few casualties— it was time to clamber over the little space I had left, in order to move or dismantle the existing furniture. And since it defied its appearance by weighing about the same as a baby elephant, I made the decision to trade the screw-driver for a series of heavy thwacks to its joints with a 5lb yellow fibre-glass handled, double-dipped masonry lump-hammer and hacking knife— thus weakening it sufficiently without destroying it; allowing me to remove it piece by piece. It was never going to be used again so I considered the battering I administered, pay-back for the previous day’s sweating and bad language.

That part was at least fun. Getting the new stuff in was not— not because it was overly heavy or cumbersome, despite having to negotiate the over-spill— but because it wouldn’t fit. You’ll have to imagine my disgruntlement; something the TV didn’t have to, nor the bin and neither did the two slippers that made up the pair. But to their credit, they did have the good sense to detach themselves from my feet before going flying. Granted, they did so at an inconvenient time, but had they not have, they too would have been copping unfortunate ones.

There was no way round it. Dismantling was out of the question, my voice was becoming hoarse; I was intolerably thirsty and any minute soon, I’d be surrounded by cretins. I decided to stop and have some more tea before returning to the grounds being stomped upon by impudent pieces wood.

CDs went flying in the direction of the bed followed by the DVD player, books and assorted non-specific papers. The monitor displaying an AOL login page joined the party to the right of the now hidden guitar— though it was doing its best to return to the chair by sliding slowly towards the ground. I solved this by balancing the chair on top of it and hoped that God would intervene to keep it there. Next it was the clothes that went for a trip , before the turn of the delightful piece of rogue ‘wicker’ I had discovered stowed away somewhere or other. The rest of the obstructions were cleared in much the same way you’d remove water from a sinking boat— though in my experience a breach can be stemmed— and water doesn’t use nearly so many expletives.

With the new found room, I teased the items into place, admired them and then surveyed the monstrous state of the remaining artefacts and swore a little more. I think ‘for fuck’s sake!’ was uttered under every breath— sometimes more, but with an eye on the prize and the other one twitching away madly— I managed to swathe away my denial-complex until the job— on the face of it— was complete.

I say ‘on the face of it’, because it was so, only thanks to a little creativity— meaning I hid a great many of the things I could no longer bare the sight of in a large box, then secured it away from my line of sight: what the eye don’t see, blah blah blah.

They say, ‘a job worth doing is a job worth doing well’— well, yes and no. If it’s worth doing at all, you’re better off letting someone else doing it. How and why anyone would chose to move house more than once in their lifetime is beyond me.

Bedrooms are my absolute limit.

Period— the end…

i For future reference, my secret vein and wrinkles of deep persuasion are located on the left hand side of my upper forehead and around, so as to be tickling my left temple. Like pain, they are there to inform me of stuff.

image: Odd Stuff Magazine

Just a little background: noise & biography…

Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels.

Bertolt Brecht

iuI read that and instinctly think cats. That’s biography.

I am fascinated by the heroic age of Antarctic expedition, history, education, great sex, openness, cats, cameras; the space race; sentence-structure, lexis, discourse conventions and phatic communication; cinema; the sounds of cricket and its numbers; golf swings, sortes, piropo, productivity, logical fallacies; fagottists— which leads to the double-o phoneme and coda-less syllables; falderals, nonsense; nanism— my fear of developing it and albino-clowns who already have. Ironing, long-sleeves, compound swearing, yellow pads, yoof-speak and linguistic representations— meh. Books, tea, science, feets, unnecessary plurals and corrugated-cardboard to name but a few.

It’s a pointless list because there isn’t much I’m not interested in. I like the feeling of insignificance in knowing how little I know; and how each little thing helps me know what I already know a little better.

And I still don’t know what this makes me, but it kind of works like this:

Perhaps it just makes me English since ‘England is the paradise of individuality, eccentricity … hobbies and humors.’1 Quite whether the world thinks we are small or great, but such is the context of opinion. Goethe wrote that, ‘people of uncommon abilities generally fall into eccentricities when their sphere of life is not adequate to their abilities.’ Well spheres be damned as, ‘No one can be profoundly original who does not avoid eccentricity.’2 But to what end is thought’d: ‘eccentricity in small things [is] crazy’3 and though it ‘destroys reason, [it does] not [the] wit?’4

All I’m really trying to do here is to show a little of what it’s like to be autistic— from the ground up I’ve taken my traits and applied them to certain functions within the texts: from word orders and word types, semantic variances, repetitions and rhetorical devices— even archaic syntax to the very deliberate structure I use to present things. It’s not always easy to read and it’s not meant to be, It’s supposed to be a little overwhelming at times and take the reader in circles— but it’s a desirable difficulty designed to stimulate a little over-processing, in the same way real life does to me. It’s the only way I know how to present what it’s like to me: to demonstrate it, not write about it— especially when there are a million people out there able to just describe it so much better.

I was going to just post the blueprint, but thought the meta-language would just make it pointless— like the list…

I’m not just a linguist or educator or golfer or cricket fanatic or autistic or anything for that matter—

I’m just curious…

And I guess lists should be conspiculous by its absense, but it’s really not…

1 George Santayana
2 André Maurois
3 Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton
4 Nathaniel Emmons

I sometimes google autism and the nun; autistic nun; nuns on the spectrum – just AS nuns, sometimes do…

It’s habit, but what exactly to call it—

And would it smell as sweet?

530420_10150764779066041_2054832089_nI am terribly fond of trifles— a trifle cleverness for instance, provided it’s not too early in the morning. There’s always so much to do and what with wakefulness becoming such an undertaking, I find it unnecessary in the extreme. I’m far too fond of taking my particulars in a pedestrian manner— just one of the customary customs I’m accustomed to, to speak nil of the custumal. I’d call it routine were I able to abide the laziness of it— there’s far too much of that about, especially when everything else I have to write about is stripped of unnecessary words. And while nude text is most effective when dealing with the real world, I must confess how partial I am to the eccentricities of abusing syllables to the dozen when a few would certainly do. Suffice to say this trifle is rather filling. But let’s see…

I like a particular light, a particular quiet, in a particular room; two particular pints of one particular tea in twice the particular mug— though I’d refrain from describing this as fussy; not in the slightest— just a superficial type, more trinket than trapping that I’d hate to break: habits are most certainly not records.

By pint number three I may have settled into my reading, sometimes it’s hard to tell— the simmering awkwardness that accompanies me throughout the day’s most noticeable at this time, so it’s best to tread carefully. It’s also so rather dependant on the weather— the rain makes a racket and the gloom makes the room; then there’re those bloody wind-chimes: there really ought to be some observances regarding their uses enforceable by civilians prone to a little grumpy now and then.

Whether ritual or routine, it isn’t any wonder why we’re co-dependant, or simply compatible; or whether we’re just mutually beneficial— there’s always an elegant symmetry in antistrophe: I to the text, the text to I— to say nothing of the tea… or the light, or the quiet, the mug, weather or…

Each year one vicious habit discarded, in time might make the worst of us good.

Benjamin Franklin

Or at the very least, freak out a tad before doing so…

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