Vocation

I’m lying on a couch while a lady who looks nineteen, wearing goggles, sticks a small needle repeatedly into my inner thighs. If you have never been injected in this part of the body, I can testify that it isn’t something you’d want to do for fun. To stop myself from squealing, or screaming, I ask her how she came to be an angiologue – a specialist in blood vessels. Had she always wanted to be a doctor?

No, she laughs. “I wanted to be a jockey, but my father said that is not a profession. So then I wanted to be a drum majorette. My grandmother bought me the costume and it felt wonderful, the short skirt, the boots, tossing my hair, but my father said, That is not a profession. So next I thought I would become an artist; that would be a good way to earn a living, painting pictures. But..”

“I think I can guess: your father said that is not a profession?”

Exacte!”

“So finally you became a doctor.”

“The last thing I ever wanted to be was a doctor or nurse, but I couldn’t think of anything else.”

“Why didn’t you want to be a doctor or nurse?”

“Because I couldn’t stand the thought of giving people injections.” She stuck the needle in me for the 16th time.

A true horror story

This is about the treatment of hunting dogs and greyhounds in Spain. If you thought that Spanish cruelty was confined to torturing bulls, donkeys, goats and small and helpless animals to death, please also include dogs. What is being done to these animals is so gruesome that I am not putting any details on this blog, but am inviting, in fact imploring all caring people to go to this link: Spanish dogs in need where information is given about the barbaric and sadistic treatment of these dogs, and sign the petition there. Do not click on the link to photos unless you are sure you want to see them.

Here is another link to more photos, and the same warning applies.

These animals are defenceless against the people who are torturing and killing them; they desperately need help. Please help them by signing the petition and letting other people know what is happening, in the 21st century, in a supposedly civilised Western European country.

Sacrebleu! Negative review!

When my first book was published, I checked out its ranking on Amazon.co.uk about every 14 seconds for a year. I thrilled as it came in at the 85,000 mark and whizzed up into the 500’s in the space of a couple of days. For those who don’t know, a book in the top 40,000 is considered a modest achievement. In the top 10,000 – pretty impressive. In the top 1,000 – GERONIMO! I don’t know the total number of books on Amazon, but it’s certainly several hundred thousand.

An author seeing their book climb to the pinnacle of the top 1,000 could start to dream of buying a Lamborghini and a holiday apartment in Venice. The fact, though, is that a high ranking doesn’t have much meaning in terms of sales and income. A single sale can push a title up 20,000 or more rungs of the ladder. Some other person’s book selling two copies more can send it plummeting out of sight.

But reviews by readers are always interesting. It’s good for the ego if these are glowing and accompanied by five stars, but with my hand on my heart I can truthfully say my big buzz comes from knowing that I created enjoyment for somebody.

Nowadays I don’t really follow my books on Amazon that much; they’ve been in print for several years, and float around doing their own thing, out of the limelight. But last week I noticed a new review with only two stars, beating my previous low star-rating of three. The review was actually not particularly bad. Despite the writer finding the book “turgid” and neither humorous nor pacey, they did rate it as interesting and one of the better guide books, a fair and balanced view in line with the marketing of the book, which made no claim to be funny nor fast. It was a laid-back trip around lesser-known parts of France.

It’s easy to become complacent, and a timely nudge in the ribs may be quite useful. I’m going to read the book myself, having not looked at it since it went off to the publishers over two years ago, and see whether the “turgid” description was justified, and if so, thank the person who pointed it out to me. Constructive criticism isn’t only useful – it’s difficult to come by.

Link to review

The night we ate the cat’s food

This is our cat Louis, a foundling who came to us via a friend. He’s a very funny cat, totally laid back. If you feel like picking him up and gently swinging him by his back legs, he will happily dangle upside down, swaying for as long as you want, purring loudly all the time. In the winter he sleeps on the bed, hooking back the duvet so he can get underneath, and during the night reaching out frequently to tap us with his paws, as if reassuring us that he is there. Sometimes he likes to drape himself over my shoulders like a stole, and he loves playing with our dogs.

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His favourite place on winter days is lying on the edge of my computer, and he does not mind that this makes the DVD drive inaccessible, nor that he strews my papers all over the place. He’s always been a scruffy old thing, covered in dust and cobwebs because of the places he haunts. His certificate at the vet gives him the rather grand description: “European Black Cat.” Well, he’s undoubtedly a cat, certainly European, and in the winter he’s black; but once the summer arrives, his coat changes into a foxy red.

Louis has always been a fighter; his indignation if any other cat comes within range of our house is a sight to see and a sound to hear. Unfortunately, though, the injuries caused by his many punch-ups have not only cost a fortune in veterinary bills, but have also caused him to develop feline AIDS. Although he is otherwise happy and active, he gets ulcers in his mouth which make eating very painful. These have to be treated regularly and continually. When his mouth is bad, he becomes very fussy about his food, preferring soft, lump-free meals, so two days ago I made him a fish soufflĂ© – poached whiting, pureed with cream, thickened with egg yolk, and lightened with whisked egg white. Baked for 15 minutes, it was the most impressive and delicious soufflĂ© I have ever achieved – and without a recipe.

He sniffed at his dish, took two mouthfuls, glared at me the way Gordon Ramsay might look at someone who had produced a lumpy velouté, and then strutted away.

And that is why we came to be eating the cat’s dinner on Saturday evening.

Later, he graciously deigned to dine upon a fine slab of liver mousse.

Mists and mellow fruitfulness

The swallows were massing damply on the power cables this morning, politely making room for newcomers as ever more arrived out of the drizzle.

Yesterday we took the hedge-trimmer into the field, where it seemed more interested in sampling the abundant berries than cropping the overgrowth:

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Environmentally-friendly hedge-trimmer

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Mellow fruits

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In my ideal world, it would be autumn all year round – mild and misty, vibrantly colourful, and free of biting insects. I love the crunch of leaves underfoot, wearing a fleece, the smell of woodsmoke and organic decay, the prospect of long evenings in front of the fire and the comforting weight of the duvet in a cool bedroom.

Happy autumn, everybody. 🙂