Books on a theme… 🐾 🐈

It’s 4 days and counting until our new feline members of the family come to join us, and thought I would write a wee summary of some of my reading in the last couple of months that’s been very inspired by them while we’ve waited! When we first started looking for a cat to join our home I jumped straight back in to some of my old favourite Tom Cox books, and then enjoyed it so much that I also added a few extra memoirs on a similar theme over the next few weeks, so just a wee round-up of them all.

📖 Under the Paw; Talk to the Tail; The Good, the Bad and the Furry and Close Encounters of the Furred Kind ~ Tom Cox 📖

I have read and enjoyed Tom Cox’s writing for years on his blog and in his books on nature, as well as – in these 4 books in particular – on life with his cats, and I love his depictions of a life touched by (or dominated by!) pets, one I’ve always known myself and could relate to so much.

This time around I read these all out of order – originally re-reading the final book, one of my favourites, but then enjoying it so much I found myself picking up my paperback copies of the first and third before finally downloading on my Kindle app Talk to the Tail, the second instalment and only one I’d never read.

These books are dotted with humour and are smartly written and entertaining but are also full of compassion for the animals who share Tom’s home and bring to life their characters so vibrantly. When these stories were first unravelling in real time, I loved the gentle tales of The Bear’s ageing in his quiet dignity, the evolution of Shipley & Ralph from boisterous kittens to elderly gentlemen, and I waited with baited breath as Roscoe recovered valiantly and with her usual business-like efficiency from an accident against all the odds.

Reading these again now, I remembered how much I loved Tom Cox’s witty writing style, and most of all the warmth and colour with which he draws his little companions. Immersing myself in these characters too gave me so much scope for planning, learning and looking forward to our own cats joining us. These books have comedy, heart and some simply unforgettable little characters. 🖤

📖 Casper the Commuting Cat ~ Susan Finden 📖

A few days later and feeling the void after loving my streak of 4, this lovely little book – the story of the life of a characterful little cat who took to riding the bus around Plymouth, tenderly recounted by his owner Sue; was my first book browsed and chosen from the library in six months. It also marked our first trip back to this one of our local libraries in over a year – one we used to visit every week for Bookbug sessions with a group of other parents and children and enjoy such a lovely social side to library life. Some of the smaller libraries near us had remained shut all the way through since the very first lockdown, and it was wonderful to return there for their reopening last week at long last, see the lovely staff again and browse the shelves. I had both my daughters with me – my oldest suddenly remembering the weekly visits that are so far in her past now, and my youngest taking it all in for the first time – and it was so lovely to catch up with the staff, and to each choose a book to carry back home together.

I really enjoyed reading this story not only about Casper, a very quirky cat, but about Sue herself, her gentle devotion to all the animals in her care, and the huge impact pets can have on a life throughout all its ups and downs.

Read here and there over a few days – with coffees, in the garden, and sometimes with our lovely neighbour cat visiting to join me – this was a touching story; and it was all the lovelier in its marking of our return once more as a family to a place we’ve loved so much and so look forward to frequenting again.

📖 A Street Cat Named Bob and The World According to Bob ~ James Bowen 📖

In the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed these two touching and honest stories by James Bowen about life with his cat Bob, – who came to him originally when he was living in sheltered accommodation in London, busking on the streets to get by and taking his first tentative steps in his recovery from a drug addiction. They are not only a fitting tribute to a cat who had a character more than worthy of the books and films he’s inspired, but also an enlightening and important insight into some of the issues around homelessness in our society today. James Bowen writes in a straight-forward way about the realities of the challenges he faced when he was living and working on the streets, and in particular – especially in The World According to Bob – gives an interesting insight into the work of the Big Issue and the world of its sellers. The transformative nature of James and Bob’s relationship is very notable – as their bond deepens and they share more of their lives together the impact of it on James’ perception of himself is evident, and his books are a moving testament to what animals can do for humans.

I have always loved animal stories – I love my pony books so much even now, I’ve always loved an animal book back to childhood and now – in fact I’m just embarking on an old favourite in a new format in the classic All Creatures Great And Small, after loving James Herriot stories so much growing up. I read all of these focused entirely on cats particularly because it was a really enjoyable way to learn all I could from the ups and downs of the stories – the vet trips, the escapes, the adventures, the settling in and the older age – before our cats arrive. But what these books reminded me of most of all was something much wider than that – the truly wonderful impact our animals have on the lives of their humans, no matter where they are in life.

From Tom Cox writing, relocating, weathering relationship break ups and discovering the nature around him; to Sue Finden working long hours in care and pouring all her spare time with her husband into rescuing cat after cat; to James Bowen working his way out of a living situation and addiction that had ensnared him for so long and finding his feet again; these people’s lives were all very different but all enriched so much in exactly the same way by the loyal companions who came into them.

I’ve been so lucky in my own life to have had so many animals do the same for me, and am looking forward to adding to their number; and I really enjoyed these wide-ranging books with a theme in common, and reminding myself once again just what a blessing pets really are.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend. X

📖 The Miniaturist ~ Jessie Burton 📖

Set in 17th century Amsterdam and infused with a haunting sense of place, Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist, following eighteen-year-old newlywed Nella Brandt as she arrives at her new husband’s home for the first time, is a captivating story teased out little by little and characterised by a band of truly strong women – and a couple of wonderful male characters too.

The chilling strand of mystery unfolding throughout is so compelling in itself, but for me comes second to the relationships within the Brandt household – and also to the meticulously painted backdrop all of the action takes place to; the canals, buildings and streets of Amsterdam amidst the changing of the seasons, and most of all the house itself – once so unknown to Nella, gothic and unsettling, but as she settles in so pivotal to so much of the story.

I really enjoyed this book, found myself totally hooked and racing ahead to find out what happened next, feeling its sadnesses and injustices keenly and being so drawn to Nella, Marin and Cornelia in particular and the strengthening of their interwoven relationships.

This was a book club pick, and we enjoyed our virtual chat on it at the beginning of the month – finding lots to talk about in the themes of the book, the ways the author had shone a light so eloquently and at times painfully on the attitudes of society, the complexities of the individual characters and the imagery of the city.

I also learned in our conversation that there is a BBC adaptation of this and really want to watch it, this is definitely a story that would lend itself to being watched.

Let me know if you’ve read it or seen it and what you thought! Hope you are all having a lovely week. X

Our very first weekend away as a four ❤️ lovely time staying with family, Scotland touring and rambling, and meeting our kittens for the first time.. 🐾 (Wordless Wednesday)

Travels down south – service stations, car games and dinner break, stopping off in pretty Roslin on the way home for an ice cream and a wee glimpse of the Chapel
Summer holiday read and enjoying lovely stay with family 🥰
Enjoying the winding roads
And meeting our beautiful little soon-to-be new family members 🥰

Sunny farm days, growing kittens and back to some travel adventures… summertime begins ❤️

We’ve been lucky to have some wonderful warm weather here the last few weeks and have all been enjoying moving into summertime. It makes such a big difference to see the sun shining after what seems to have been a long winter and it’s wonderful that it’s gone hand in hand with the easing up of Covid restrictions to let us get out more places, and spend some time with family and friends. Last week I took the most wonderful trip with my mum and the kids up north, just all in a day, but it felt like a few days away by the time we were done – up to my uncle’s in Kirkmichael for a lovely visit, making a big loop and stopping off in Blairgowrie and Pitlochry as well as enjoying all the countryside and villages along the way. It was absolutely wonderful to be back in some favourite places again that I haven’t seen in so long and to spend some wonderful long time with family in such a relaxed way.

And this weekend in fact too we’re doing a trip not just for a day but our first overnight since our littlest was born 14 months ago, again enjoying time with family then too, and are so looking forward to the novelty of it!

As part of our trip we are also going to visit our soon to be new kittens, who are 6 weeks old today and growing well. Their breeder has been so lovely sending us photos and videos of them growing and changing and it’s going to be so lovely when we get them home to have had such a lovely insight into their early days.

Kittens at 4 weeks

One of the most absolutely fascinating things about their early days that’s developed more over the past couple of weeks, is that there are actually two cats with kittens in the home at the moment, born 7 days apart, and although the mother cats were originally each given their own space, they have chosen to raise the kittens together, and form a shared group between them. It’s incredible in the videos we’ve seen watching the two litters of kittens interacting with each other – the others so much bigger than those of ‘our’ litter, the mum of ours being a very petite black cat and the mum of the others a much larger ginger. The kittens will go to either mother even for milk and one will watch and look after all the kittens together while the other goes out. It’s really incredible to see the way they’ve organised themselves in such a similar way to big cats in the wild, and just lovely to observe.

Kittens at 6 weeks, and other litter at 7, with our lovely mum cuddling up with them all

I’m so looking forward to getting to meet them all this weekend and to bringing our two home in just a few weeks. Still reading around the clock on best care in the meantime and the catio project is underway too!

As part of our getting ready for the little ones coming I was doing some organising of our old small pet cages out in the shed – we are planning to use one of our larger rat cages as an “outer” cage for little Sandy hamster, so he can stay in his own environment in the kitchen where he likes to watch the world go by but be extra secure from any feline attention! Having a clear out of the rest of the cages and going to send them to the lady who runs the Hamster Rescue where Sandy originally came from so gave me a lovely chance to speak to her for the first time in a while. Had sent her a photo of Sandy and only when we were chatting about how he looked for his age, – and when I looked back at the photo I’d sent her of a young Sandy first settling in with us – did I realise how much he had changed! Such a little elderly gentleman these days!! She also mentioned his date of birth was down as 3rd March 2019, something I’d not realised before – we were giving him an approximate birthday mid-month! – so now he can definitely enjoy a monthly fuss right on time! 🥰

Sandy in July 2019 & May 2021

For Charmer the new season is definitely here, bringing with it the world of fly sprays, rugs and summer field maintenance. He’s in a lovely routine of taking a long lie in the morning before I bring him in for his breakfast and his fieldmate’s owners pop him back out after a couple of hours respite in the stable, and every morning just now I am finding him very relaxed in his field. ❤️

Been spending a couple of evenings at the old ragworting, and it’s actually been so lovely. Because I’m often at the farm in the mornings just now and because Charmer is all taken care of early doors, it is lovely to have the chance to just be in the field with him watching him graze and just co-existing. That’s always one of my favourite things to do especially at this time of year.

De-ragworting begins

Charmer is doing really well at the moment all-round. Got his new shoes again this week and he’s sound and happy… possibly edging towards being put on a diet shortly! But that’s quite a good problem to have, just really pleased he’s kept condition coming out of winter, and enjoying him enjoying this new season.

New shoes day
Summer nights ❤️

We are all really enjoying the good weather here and the beginnings of summer time.. hope you are all well and getting to do a little of the same! Have a lovely weekend x

A Bookish Sunday

A bookish Sunday… such a lovely morning having coffee and a long-overdue catch-up with lovely friends at the Book Nook in Stirling. It was lovely to be back in a town I lived and worked in for so long and love so much and was such a wonderful discovery – the most beautiful second hand and new books for every age and the cosiest atmosphere. We brought home a new book everyone in the family, and I settled with mine on a quiet Sunday afternoon, a second hand but beautiful copy of Tarka the Otter – which I’m sure I’ve never read before – in the lovely Puffin Modern Classics series that I had so many books in growing up, and still have most of on my shelf… 💚 Happy Sunday all x