Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Naming of Cats

But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.

The Naming of Cats - T. S. Eliot

Much and more has been happening! We finally completed on the Upside Down House this week!

What a relief! We move in next week, so I will be spending the rest of the weekend playing several rounds of High Fantasy Tetris.

What’s High Fantasy Tetris, you ask? A game I invented when I moved up to York – I have a thing about getting all of the same series of books in the same box, no matter how many times I have to re-pack said box to make it so. This is usually fine until there’s more than ten books and they’re all doorstops.

Hello, packing the Malazan Book of the Fallen! We meet again!

However, something we didn’t particularly foresee happened recently too. We met a cat.

After losing a beloved pet there is an expected period of grief, but once you naturally come out of this there next comes a phase where the house feels perpetually empty for lack of a four-legged presence. As we are unashamed cat people, we soon realised there wasn’t a chance of us not looking to have another cat once we’d moved in.

We’d pretty much settled on the Cats Protection shelter in York, as one of the only ones we enquired with who were prepared to match individual cat to individual circumstances instead of having a blanket “no indoor cats” or “no cat flap, no cat” policy. There’s nowhere in the Upside Down House suitable for a cat flap, so we decided to stick to the one place that seemed sensible.


We’d been keeping an eye on a particular cat for a while on their website, and I had started to wonder what the unspoken facts about him might be. He’d been on there for a long time and was a young and very handsome tabby cat who was specified indoor only on his profile. The more weeks went by with him remaining unreserved, the more curious I became.

Eventually curiosity got the better of us both and we called to enquire about him. My instincts weren’t wrong – he is FIV positive. For the unfamiliar, consider it roughly the feline equivalent of the HIV virus in humans. This explained the restriction that he must remain indoors, and the shelter invited us to come in and meet him and discuss the circumstances involved in looking after an FIV positive cat.

As it turns out, it’s not as complicated an enterprise as you might think. There will be potentially a few more visits to the vet than with a completely healthy cat (but there are no guarantees an FIV negative cat wouldn’t need unexpected trips there either) and there is the possibility of a somewhat shortened lifespan. However, to my mind when you take on a pet you take on the painful inevitability that you will outlive them, and with love and care there is every chance of an FIV positive cat living a long and happy life.

What saddened me was that he had been there for so long because people heard this complication and ran. He might be very handsome, playful and loving, but he’s different. There’s a little more risk and a little more complication and the lack of a squeaky-clean bill of health, and so nobody wanted to give this little cat a chance. I’m not sure I entirely have the words for how saddening that was, particularly after meeting him and him being such a friendly boy. 

It goes to prove a point that continually annoys me - some people get a cat because they think cats are "easy" and don't require much looking after. Give them a possibility outside of their "easy package cat" box and they run for the hills. 

There’s a line in a film called Seabiscuit “You don’t give up on a life just because it’s banged up a little”. In the film that applies to both the eponymous equine and also the people around him, and to me it should indeed extend to people and animals alike. We’re all different, human and animal, and that means we all have different challenges. None of that makes us unworthy of a chance, and of a little bit of care and compassion.

The little tabby cat will be somewhat ill for the rest of his life (he’s only seven months old). What struck me immediately was that in actual fact, so will I.

Does that have to mean I’m doomed to be passed over in life in favour of healthier people because I’m that little bit more complicated? I sincerely hope not.

Happily, from now on neither will he.

(This is his Cats Protection photo - I will share some of our own soon!)

Newly-christened Fiddler the tabby will be coming home with us next weekend. 

Whether my own health experiences and my feelings about them played any part in the decision I’ll never be one hundred percent sure (I suspect they did though), but there was never really a much intention of us not giving him the chance of a loving home when so many people wouldn't. 

Especially not considering he made a bee line for me and after a quick cuddle proceeded to try and eat my coat buttons for reasons I can’t pretend to understand – there’s something just a little (read: a lot) endearing about that.

Wishing you all many spoons xxx

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Art of Being Polite

(I do, and I very rarely do. Image from

I’m British, and as you may be aware one of the things we British are known for (apart from Stephen Fry, Doctor Who and corgis) is being polite when we’re actually thinking something quite rude. We’re staunchly passive aggressive in this regard - it’s up there with such known British quirks as automatically saying sorry for things which we know were the other person’s fault.
I have the added bonus of working in the legal system, which takes this to a whole new unimagined level. Beginning a sentence with “With respect”  in a legal letter for example roughly translates as “I’m going to explain this very slowly to you, because you clearly have the intellectual capacity of goldfish."

So, for a bit of light-hearted humour, I decided to apply the “What the British say vs what they actually mean” approach to some of the most irritating/silly questions I’ve ever been asked about life with a chronic illness.
Before anyone potentially gets offended, I will just point out this is very tongue in cheek. I am well aware most people's curiosity is completely harmless, and that the vast majority are not as obtuse as the questions they sometimes ask. I merely ask you consider the more colourful responses you yourself may consider if you'd answered the same question fifty-odd times and counting.
So, for a bit of fun:
But… how can you not drink alcohol at all?

What I say: Well, it took a bit of getting used to but now I don’t really notice. I miss the odd specific drink but nothing major.

What I mean: I walk up to a bar and I order that-which-is-not-alcohol. It’s my superhero power.

How can you be in pain all the time? That’s not even possible.

What I say: That's what a chronic pain condition is. It's not particularly well understood, as such there's no cure so it's difficult to know how best to go about preventing patients from being in pain. It's just one of those things.

What I mean: Because wizards. Moron.

(See? Wizards... image from

So it’s a chronic fatigue condition. Why don’t you just go to bed early?

What I say: Sadly it’s not the sort of fatigue that any amount of sleep particularly benefits. I still have to be careful how much I do on a daily basis and sometimes even that doesn’t work.

What I mean: If you honestly think I wouldn’t have tried that in the last three years, I suspect your brain is missing.

Maybe you just need to go out more?

What I say: That’s not always a good idea for various reasons, but I do get out as much as I’m able to.

What I mean: No I most certainly don’t, going out is how I end up talking to people who ask silly questions...


Don’t you think it’s all about attitude?

What I say: With respect, positivity can’t wholly solve any medical issue. I think there’s a great deal more to it that’s a fairly dismissive assumption.

What I mean: I mean no respect whatsoever because I think you’re an idiot. I suspect that’s not the attitude you were referring to, however.

Aren’t you a bit young to be  ill?

What I say: A lot of chronic conditions typically manifest in the early 20’s, but can crop up at any age. It’s just one of those things.

What I mean:  No, but I’m definitely a bit young to be this cynical about people…

How come you don’t look ill?

What I say: Because all the symptoms are internal - that’s why it’s an “invisible” illness.

What I mean: Say it with me, "invisible". There’s this thing called a dictionary - perhaps you should try it.

(Nectar of the gods. Also, just to be clear, we Brits don't all serve tea in the finest china. We aren't all the cast of Downton Abbey.)

*In response to not feeling well* - Do you want a cup of tea?

What I say: Yes, I’d love one.

What I mean: I’m British - that’s a completely rhetorical question.

We’re a strange bunch, we Brits. However, keep me in copious amounts of tea and I’ll allow you to ask me all the stupid questions you wish.  Cake is also good.

Wishing you all many spoons xxx

Thursday, 2 October 2014

WEGO Health Activist Awards 2014!

So, it's that time of year again!

2014 is the fourth annual WEGO Health Activist Awards, set up for people to recognise the health activisits who enrich their lives in some way shape or form, for which they can nominate them in any of 14 categories, which are:

  • Advocating for Another
  • Best in Show: Blog
  • Best in Show: Community/Forum
  • Best in Show: Facebook
  • Best in Show: Google+
  • Best in Show: Instagram
  • Best in Show: Twitter
  • Best in Show: Youtube
  • Best Kept Secret
  • Best Team Performance
  • Health Activist Hero
  • Hilarious Health Activist
  • Lifetime Achievement
  • Rookie of the Year
Much to my pleasant surprise, I had to re-activate my award profile from last year as The Retired Bridgeburner has been nominated for three awards! I'm up for Best in Show: Blog, Best Kept Secret and Hilarious Health Activist.

Thank you so much to those who nominated me! As the profile is now active you can add your nomination reason if you wish, anonymously or with a name. I'd love to know who did nominate me (either on the profile page or via another form of contact) so that I can say thank you personally!

I would absolutely love to be shortlisted this year (wouldn't everyone?) and if you'd like to help me on my way, please pop over to the profile page below and click the "Endorse" button. It takes five seconds and is one of the factors which is taken into account when choosing the shortlists for the various awards. A few people have already done so, and again, thank you very much!

I'm genuinely quite overwhelemed. I always said that if this blog helped one person, it would be enough to make doing so worthwhile. It would appear I was a little short of the mark in counting in singular.

I consider myself blessed with a wonderful readership, you guys are wonderful.

Without further ado, the profile link is below. Nominations are open until December 31 and endorsements are already available and will continue past this date (final date to be announced, I will let you know when I find out).

One very happy Bridgeburner wishing you all many spoons xxx