Christmas was a frantic rush as usual, with gifts to be finished and posted off. A very young gentleman was to receive a warm new jacket, with cosy pockets -
but at the last moment it was felt that this wasn't much of a joy-giver to unwrap under the tree, so Barnabas the Bat was created and went off in the same package.
He was great fun to make from a clever design by Shauna Jared. The construction of the wings was particularly nifty. Thanks Shauna! One gathers that Barnabas now sleeps with his young owner, along with an assortment of other animals.
Ah yes, animals. You will recall that a beautiful little kitten came to stay recently, having been brought back from almost-dead by a cat-whisperer friend. She is blooming and full of energy, causing mayhem everywhere. The two old tom cats have virtually left home until she reaches the age of reason (whenever that may be) and the dogs avoid her as much as possible. Only Marigold, being nearer in age, administers clouts to the furry head from time to time, 'to put manners on her' as she expresses it.
But, but, BUT: there is no other explanation for it, there must be a ten foot sign outside our gate, visible only to the travelling feline. I was called urgently down to the living room a couple of weeks ago where DH had just seen double. Our black tom, Polliwog struck motionless on one side of the deck outside, and on the other, what looked like his doppelganger. On closer scrutiny however, it became obvious that this was a female, and one moreover in very bad shape.
Door was opened. Expected strange cat to flee, but it staggered to my feet and tried to rub its head against me. Raised huge round eyes in a little round face and pleaded. Food was supplied instantly, and bolted down. Clean water was provided and drunk gratefully.
What next? Let it sit there for a while. Check it on security cameras every few minutes. After a while it wandered off. Oh well, another recipient for the Maeldun Bequest (you will have to check back a few years on the blog, but when a much-loved stray whom we christened Maeldun died, he left strict instructions that there must always be food and a warm blanket in the porch for any stray that might happen by. An instruction we have followed faithfully.)
But of course I worried about that little female. She looked elderly. What had happened to a once obviously loved cat? Had her owner died, that she was now wandering and starving? When she reappeared later that afternoon, I coaxed her into the little lean-to greenhouse at the back of the house, where she could at least be warm and dry. Blankets, water, litter tray, food. She ate ravenously again. And I checked on her constantly.
But next morning it was obvious she couldn't hold the food down. Her teeth were in a very bad shape too, as were her claws, torn and blunted from heaven knows what food-seeking stratagems. Gave in, took her to the vet, had her put on a drip and given as much deworming and medication as her little body could take.
She was there a week. We brought her home, and she is slowly, slowly, coming back to life. She is clean, infection-free, and her coat will recover in time. She likes more than anything to sit on a lap for hours, and asks no more.
Look, it's easy to fall madly in love with a cute kitten, isn't it? But what chance does an elderly cat who has definitely seen better days have? Every time I stroke her little head, try to coax a rusty purr, I think of how she must have been loved and cared for until something happened and she was thrown out into a harsh world to cope as best she could. Poor little Waif.
Yes, OK, I know we have too many beasties as it is. Far too many. We do NOT need another cat.
But what can you do? For heaven's sake, what would you do?
Now I mentioned that the weather has been gloomy and dark and wet, and although the days are getting gradually longer, you wouldn't know it with all the clouds massing above. Over in Pyeongchang, they are having far worse conditions with sub-zero temperatures and rather more snow than was strictly required. But what do you know, Ireland decided to get in on the act last week, and actually produced a light dusting of the white stuff itself!
The animals had mixed feelings about this new phenomenon. It happens so rarely here in West Cork that they don't get much experience.
Marigold wondering why her paws are cold.
Polliwog boasting that he is a warrior, at home in any conditions.
Paudge Mogeely decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and curled up with the dogs to keep warm. 'Snow's all very well for them as likes it, but me I'm better in the snug so I am.'
And here, against a suitably wintry backdrop, is the start of my own Olympic bid, or to put it more accurately, my entry for this year's Ravellenics. This, as you may know, is the event staged by the online knitting group Ravelry every time the Olympics take place. You cast on during the opening ceremonies and then push yourself to the limit to get the project done by the closing ceremonies. Going to take a bit of work, this one, and the hands are already aching. It's the Chimney Fire jacket which has a complicated cabled border and acres of moss stitch. Fortunately, the Continental or picking technique was adopted several years ago chez Celtic Memory in place of the old throwing or English style, and that has made moss stitch or any form of changing from knit to purl far quicker and easier. Next Sun, Feb 25, it's the closing ceremonies. Better get a move on.
We did get one semi-bright day and made immediate use of it. As we drove past the Gearagh, a morning bar of mist was just rising, and we could see the old road, which was there before the valley was flooded, revealed as the waters were exceptionally low.
See the line running across the middle of the picture, just below the line of white mist? That's the old road.
Oh gosh, can't believe that I forgot to tell you! It will be out on April 16! Follow The Old Road, I mean! De Next Book! There was a delay while they found a really good cartographer to create the dreamlike and imaginative map which was essential to give the book its final touch, but that's all now sorted, and it will be on the shelves mid-April!!!!!
So excited. It seems to have taken us forever, what with travelling all over the country to discover the ancient tracks and the forgotten canals and the lost railways and the winding rivers and the invisible sea routes which connected one tiny fishing village with another and with the wider world. Crumbling railway halts covered with ivy, tiny piers on river banks, ruined abbeys, mysterious lakes, stories of emigration, stories of trade, echoes, echoes, echoes of the past everywhere. A major job, but what a world it opened up!
But back to the day out. Took Petroushka down to Inchydoney strand where a couple of exercising horses made a beautiful picture at the edge of the waves.
Troushka absolutely adores a huge empty beach. She yearns for it, dreams of it in her furry sleep, wails for it on those dark wet days when it really isn't a pleasant idea to go out. So she was in her element, feeling all her dog days had come at once.
It is the good thing about West Cork on a chilly February day: apart from the occasional horse and rider, you have the place mostly to yourself.
Further west, near Clonakilty, we found that the Great Northern divers (known and loved as loons in the New World) were making the most of our gentler climate for the winter months.
They won't get their brighter breeding plumage until they head north in the spring and you will hear their eerily wonderful calls over the lakes of colder climates.
And here was a last bonus as the clouds gathered once more and the rain was threatening.
Just in front of this stand of trees, where the last rays of the sun were giving some warmth in a particularly sheltered spot, we spotted a tiny dot of russet. You can hardly see it there in the centre of the picture, so here is a close up, courtesy of DH's magical long lens:
A fox enjoying a quiet snooze. I like to think it was a female, getting some peace and quiet before the new litter arrives and robs her of such luxuries as me-time for the summer. It was a gift to us on the way home, and perhaps a reminder that spring really is on the way.