Felines first, for I know that's what you want to know. Last time I introduced you to the small and beautiful Maine Coon cross, Mishka. Well she is no more. Not a topic for discussion, let's just throw unpleasant words like 'minor road used as a freeway by hasty commuters' and 'wild kitten born to explore pastures new' and leave it like that.
A day and a night of tears and self-accusation and tough questions like 'do I deserve to have a cat if I can't care for it?' and DH had had enough. He hauled me into Cork, to the local rescue centre.
'No, we don't have any kittens' said the young man firmly. I buried my face in my hands and DH looked at him hard. 'Well, you could look at these pictures on the wall if you like.' More sniffles, more hard looks. 'Well, you could come in here and look at these cages I suppose.'
A long room with all kinds of cats stretching and clawing and meowing in separate cages. One serene mother with a new litter, a splendid tabby tom pawing the bars imperiously, a couple of battered animals that had definitely seen better days. I wandered down to the very end, to a cage in the corner that appeared empty, and peered half-heartedly in.
A huge pair of eyes, like emerald green lamps, looked back at me.
As my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I saw there was a very very tiny black kitten behind the lamps. It was scared, but courageous. A finger through the bars was approached timidly, then rubbed against, with the beginnings of a tiny purr.
'That's it' I said instantly. 'That's the one.'
The young official objected. This kitten had only just come in, it had to be checked out, vaccinated, its papers stamped. 'Friday at the earliest.'
Now he was on the receiving end of two hard stares. Then I remembered the persuasive technique and reminded him of how much all that officialdom would cost. 'We'll take him straight to our own vet. Save you all that outlay.'
'Well... I don't know.'
I tucked the kitten inside my jacket and headed for the door, pausing only to leave a contribution on the counter towards the centre's sterling work. DH smiled comfortingly and followed me. As we got into the car, the young man rushed out after us with the kitten's papers. A single sheet with a fuzzy picture clipped to it and a number. 'Just mention Cat 303 if you need to call us.'
Cat 303. What a start in life! A mugshot and a number. He curled up quietly in my jacket all the way home and soon found a comfy warm spot of his very own, with toys in case he was lonely.
His official name is Wolfgang since he considers himself a bit of a dangerous lad, but he's been Pollywog from the moment he arrived. You know, those wriggling long-legged black creatures you find in ponds?
Of course it wasn't long before he started tormenting Sophy Wackles, who, though she pretended to be annoyed, was secretly overjoyed at having someone to play with.
And things went along very happily. Pollywog was not allowed out of the house at ALL. Not until he's a lot older and calmer. I would love to see him climbing trees and exploring bushes, but I never want to go through that road experience again.
As kittens will, he grew and got more playful. Soon nowhere was safe in the house from his marauding paws and explosive bounces. 'Needs a companion to play with,' I said to myself. Not to DH yet - need to take these things carefully, don't you? But I did mention it in the end to Animal Whisperer In Chief, my friend Eileen, who runs a boarding kennels and can speak, soul to soul, I verily believe, to any creature under the sun.
'Funny you should say that,' she commented. And immediately unfolded a story that would raise the hair on your head.
That very morning, she recounted, a friend had taken a lorryload of cattle into Cork and had brought them to a large barn on the outskirts. While his mate unlocked the lorry doors and started the cattle down the ramp, this man went ahead to open the barn doors so they could rush straight in. There, in the very centre of the vast empty concrete floor, sat a smidgen of a tiny grey tabby kitten.
'He couldn't delay,' explained Eileen. 'He could hear the clattering hooves behind him, so he simply rushed over, picked it up and shoved it in his pocket and got out of the way.'
Later he tried to find its home, but with no success so, as everyone tends to do around here, brought it back to Eileen. 'It's in the car with me now, would you like to see it?
Would I what? Was this a gift from the gods or not?
Now we have one big happy family. Baby has notionally been christened Amadeus to go with Wolfgang, and once he loses those roly poly curves we will have to stop calling him Podge for his everyday name. Suggestions welcomed.
With all this excitement, the festive season sort of crept up without my noticing until I started getting requests for those special shawl kits again. So I had to haul out the Victorian skein winder and all the huge containers of yarn, and start making up a few. So far I have created blues, purples, greens and pinks, or Sea Cave, Connemara Twilight, Forest Path and Wild Rose to give them their proper titles.
Here is Connemara Twilight in its handy case. Must get those which haven't already been booked up on eBay before too long or we'll miss Christmas altogether! Time, time, we need more time. (You'd think they changed the date of Christmas every year, wouldn't you, the way it always seems to catch us on the hop!)
Somebody asked to see that lovely old skein winder again, so here it is, busily working on the Wild Roses kit.
These aren't just for shawls of course. They're ideal for those Jane Thornley-type vests, wraps, whatever. Anything that needs lots of lovely different textures and fibres and shades to create a unique work of art.
Got the idea for this when pulling on a dark winter coat to go out. I realised that something bright pink peeking out from underneath would add just that flash of colour one needs in winter. It's much the same as my Ruffled Shawl a la Duchesse, but I blocked it into points for maximum effect. And used yarn from the stash too, yay!