International Cat Day 2021

NOTE: This post was written to go up yesterday, on 9th August 2021. However, my phone – which, of course, had the video of the cats on it – completely died and only recovered this morning. Following some further technical difficulties, the video has finally been retrieved and this post can go up. So happy belated International Cat Day!

Happy International Cat Day! Yes, it’s a real thing!

When I first started writing this blog, I made a post introducing the animals in my life and talking about the importance of pets. There have been significant changes in the animal contingent of our family since then and given this holiday, I thought it was time for an update and, if nothing else, a post full of cuteness.

A short note before I get into the main post… if you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that our family dog, Lucky, had to be put to sleep at the age of fifteen just before the pandemic hit the UK. Although he obviously wasn’t a cat, he may very well have thought he was one (he did spend almost all of his life surrounded by various cats after all) and most of our cats adored him. He was an honorary member of our cat family and we miss him dearly.


LUCY

Lucy is the queen of the house. She always has been and she most likely always will be. And that is very clear. Having been an only cat, she can be a bit aloof and irritable with the younger generations, like it’s a great trial for her to have to share her house, her garden, her people, and so on. Sometimes she’ll smack them as they walk past for no apparent reason. But most of the time, she’s very affectionate, especially with me but with all familiar people, the other cats, and she adored Lucky when he was still with us. She demands her time with me in particular and gets somewhat ratty if she doesn’t get it: she hangs out in the bathroom with me whenever I’m in there; she’s the only one allowed to roam the house at night and she always sleeps on my bed (or nearby if we’re having hot weather); and she spends most of the day in whichever room I’m based in. It’s very sweet. She doesn’t always want to be snuggled up with me but she does like to be close by.

“I’m not sure why I like cats so much. I mean, they’re really cute obviously. They are both wild and domestic at the same time.” – Michael Showalter

MOUSE AND TIGER

Lucy had her first litter of kittens in 2016 which was a wonderful experience. We found them all homes (homes that were all linked actually, which was kind of adorable) and went back to being a one cat household, which I had missed. We discussed having Lucy spayed before deciding that we wanted to have one more experience of kittens, which resulted in Mouse and Tiger, both girls, in early 2018. They were, of course, unbearably adorable and I loved every moment with them. They also really helped me through the traumatic experience of moving house: their playfulness and innocence and general wonder at the world was incredibly soothing to my anxiety and distress. We hadn’t planned to keep them but both my Mum and I had just fallen head over heels and one day, watching the two of them play with Lucy in the garden, we acknowledged that the decision had already been made really. After that, we had Lucy spayed, content with our little family of three.

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Mouse is the elder of the two and she’s just the most beautiful cat: silver, sleek, and utterly gorgeous (as ridiculous as she looks in this picture). She looks very much like a Nebelung cat but given that Lucy and Tiger look nothing like her, I’m not sure how that would be possible. She’s pretty reserved and quite skittish but when she decides she wants affection, she will not leave you alone; it’s very cute. She’s very playful and very vocal, sometimes for no apparent reason, almost like she’s just making sure you haven’t forgotten she’s there.

Tiger is the younger and ever since she could wriggle across the floor on her tummy, she’s been following me around, climbing on me, and snuggling up with me. She’s somewhat obsessed and it’s kind of hilarious. As a kitten, she once climbed up my shirt (whilst I was sitting in bed) and fell asleep curled up on my shoulder. She demands my attention – loudly – and won’t leave me alone until I have thoroughly patted, cuddled, and appreciated her. There have been a handful of very funny Zoom/online class experiences over the last eighteen months where she just wouldn’t leave me alone for anything as I tried my hardest to maintain some semblance of professionalism. She can be a little skittish too, like her sister, but on the whole, she’s calmer and more obliging.

“You can not look at a sleeping cat and feel tense.” – Jane Pauley

SOOTY AND SWEEP (their birth order is actually Sweep and Sooty but, of course, we call them Sooty and Sweep)

When Mouse and Tiger reached the age of being spayed, we had to decide whether or not we wanted to do kittens one last time. After a lot of discussion, my Mum and I decided that it would be really nice to have one more litter. Tiger had been my baby since the moment she was born and I just couldn’t imagine her as a ‘grown up’ – if that makes sense – so we had her spayed and decided to just wait and see what happened with Mouse.

Life went on and nothing happened in the kitten department. Meanwhile my mental health plummeted and I was struggling to get by. In the end, the idea of things changing, of anything new happening, just felt too overwhelming so we decided to have Mouse spayed. We took her for the pre spay check up and the vet said she was fine, although she could lose a little weight so we should reduce her food some.

And then about a week later, we came home to find Mouse pacing by the front door. As soon as she saw me, she headed for my room, stopping every few feet to make sure I was following and yowling the whole way. We went into my room, she curled up in the cat bed in the corner, and a few hours later, we had two new kittens. So that threw us for a loop: just as we’d decided against more kittens, we had them. (The vet – who’d said that Mouse absolutely wasn’t pregnant – thought this was all very funny. As you can imagine, we don’t go to them anymore.) But despite the shock, it was wonderful to have kittens around, even though it took Mouse a while to figure out what she was supposed to do. Watching them explore and learn and grow was a very untainted, therapeutic experience. And their calming influence was especially appreciated when I started my Masters and was having almost daily meltdowns due to stress.

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“A kitten is in the animal world what a rosebud is in the garden.” – Robert Southey

When they reached rehoming age, we did look for a home for them (ideally, we were hoping that they could go to the same home together) but we weren’t in too much of a rush given how high my anxiety levels were. But time kept passing and I was still struggling and in the end, we decided that the joy they brought to the house outweighed everything else. So we kept them and I’m so, so grateful that we did.

Sweep, we believe, is the older sister and in full fluff, she looks very like a Norwegian Forest Cat but like her mother, we don’t know how that would be possible. I’d love to do DNA tests and find out the breeds of our whole pride but that would be incredibly expensive – too expensive just to satisfy my curiosity. She’s super chilled out, happy to curl up – or stretch out! – anywhere and starts to purr immediately when you stroke her. She’s very obliging – cuddling, anything medical, grooming, etc – as long as you let her go when she’s clear that she’s had enough, which rarely means more than pulling away a bit more forcefully than usual. She’s very sweet and has the cutest little face with these gorgeous green eyes.

Sooty is the baby of the family. (They all have their own nicknames: we refer to Lucy as ‘Queen Lucy,’ Mouse and Tiger as ‘the kittens,’ and Sooty and Sweep as ‘the beans’ and Sooty is very often ‘baby bean.’) She’s little and skinny with a ridiculously long tail; she’s like a monkey. She’s super chatty and makes a clear noise of ‘hello’ whenever you enter the room or stop to stroke her. She’s very inquisitive and affectionate and during the winter, she’ll spend hours curled up on the sofa with me (preferably stretched out in between my legs. Like Tiger before her, she’s always been very attached to me; now there is some degree of competition between the two of them and they’ve had to figure out how to take turns in getting my full attention.

While Lucy kind of separated herself from Mouse and Tiger after a certain point (I think she felt she’d done her job and didn’t understand why they hadn’t left like the previous litter had; I think that, if they’d been her first litter and she hadn’t already had the experience of mothering and then watching them leave, things might’ve been different but who knows), Mouse has remained very maternal, especially with Sweep. They curl up together, they cuddle, they groom each other, they play… The two of them in particular are two peas in a pod. Mouse and Sooty are close too but Mouse and Sweep are a special little unit. It’s very sweet.

And that’s our family of cats, also known as the pride of cats. I love them deeply and… Not to say that I wouldn’t love them as much if not for the pandemic, but they were (and still are) one of a handful of things that have kept me going through the hardest parts of the last eighteen months. They were there for cuddles when I needed them, they made me laugh (which was not easy to do), and their complete obliviousness to everything going on in the world was very soothing when my anxiety got overwhelming. I honestly don’t know how I would’ve made it to this point in the pandemic without them.

Over the last year, ever since I discovered that International Cat Day was in fact a real thing, I’ve been collecting clips of them. I thought it would be something fun to post today…


Over the last eighteen months, my pride of cats have been one of the great joys of my life. Managing five cats isn’t always easy and when something goes wrong, it’s incredibly scary – as any pet owner will know – but when all is good, it’s so good. They are truly wonderful little souls… I can practically feel the glare I’d get if they knew I was calling them ‘little souls’ so I’ll amend that statement. They are truly wonderful, big and beautiful souls in little bodies.

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And to finish this post, I want to include a particularly apt quote. Of all the cat related quotes I found, I’m not sure there are any more perfect for me…

“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” – Albert Schweitzer

I Am A Very Proud Sister

Last night, my younger sibling, Charlie, performed their headline show (and I believe it was their first headline show ever!) at the Above The Stag cabaret lounge. The show was called Charlie Wood Tries Really Hard to Improve the World and the description read…

“From environmental collapse to JK Rowling, everything is clearly going terribly and it’s time someone did something about it. Using song and story, whimsey and costume changes, Charlie Wood attempts to redirect Britain away from abject ruin and towards a more hopeful, positive and less gendered future, in this impassioned, comic evening of light ranting, special guests and songs about vampire Margaret Thatcher.

Charlie Wood is an award-losing writer, musician and performer who has starred in the Royal Vauxhall Tavern’s iconic panto, created memorable work for Crayola’s Mx Madhouse, worked with Lea Anderson and John Cameron Mitchell and was once in the background of a Mastercard advert.

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It was truly awesome and I’m still alternating between beaming with pride and tearing up with pride. Charlie is so creative and works so hard at every project they commit to and it was such a joy and an honour to witness the show, as you can probably tell from my very effusive Instagram post…

Apart from the various social media posts from last night, the only material from the show available to view are a couple of the songs which are on YouTube, including The Ballad of Heather and Bob

If you enjoyed the song, you can buy it here!

As I said, I am so, so proud of Charlie and all the hard work they put into the show. I’m only sad that it was on for just the one night so I can’t see it again.

Mass Observation Day 2021

On the 12th of May every year, the Mass Observation Archive asks people to keep a diary for a day in order to capture the everyday lives of people all over the UK. There’s usually a suggested loose theme; for example, last year, it was suggested that diary entries not focus on exactly but highlight the pandemic and the effect it was having on our lives. This year, the website suggests that “diaries can record 12th May and reflect back over the past year and look forward to the future and life beyond this year.”

I’m a long time diary writer and have been for years so this project was an exciting discovery. I love the idea of so many people’s experiences stored in one place, the idea of collecting as many versions of one day as possible and trying to build the fullest picture of it. So, for the last couple of years, I’ve looked forward to this day, to writing about it, and to sending it off to the Mass Observation Archive. But I also like posting the day here too.

Some important things to know before reading this: I’m autistic and struggle with Treatment Resistant Depression, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder. I was also recently diagnosed with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Inattentive Type). All of the symptoms get worse under stress; I’m beginning the homestretch of a Masters Degree in Songwriting and while things with the pandemic seem to be improving (the vaccines, the lockdown slowly lifting, etc), it’s hard to let go of so much ingrained fear and hard to know what the ‘right’ level of fear is. So I guess I’m still struggling with the pandemic, although not in the same way as I was struggling with it last year.


What I thought was going to be a relatively chilled out day spent at my laptop, working on stuff for the final Masters module, the Major Repertoire Project, and catching up on all the work I’d planned to do when I got hit with last week’s killer migraine (it lasted six days and involved paramedics being called to the house). But then, last night, I got an email from uni with the upcoming events and realised that the upcoming Song Sharing Session was today, this afternoon. I haven’t been back to uni since the first lockdown, working from home as an online student, so going back – and going into London – felt like a real big deal. But instead of spending hours ruminating on whether or not I should go, letting my anxiety make the decision, I decided that I wanted to go and so me and my Mum started making plans to make it possible. As things go, it felt as safe as anything can be right now: Mum had said she’d drive me there and back, I’ve had my first vaccine, and no one can enter the building unless they’ve tested negative. Mum ran out to get to COVID home tests and after that, all there was left to do was play through my songs to be as ready as possible.

Maybe because my subconscious was processing the idea of going to London, I didn’t sleep well and struggled up, later than I’d planned. And it was kind of chaos from that point on. I had a problem with my computer that sent me into a panic. I managed to sort it out but the anxiety of the situation wasn’t a great way to start the day. And then, before I could even make it to the shower, one of the cats got stuck in the attic and since we were going to be out for most of the day, we had to get her down before we left in case she couldn’t figure out how to do it herself or one of the others decided to climb up too. Even with treats, it took ages to get her down and then settle all five of them.

I did my Lateral Flow Home Test and had a shower, got dressed, and did my hair and make up while it did it’s testing thing. It came back negative, which was great obviously, but trying to register the result and get the confirmation email that would allow me to get into the uni building was overly complicated and much more time-consuming than described – particularly frustrating as I was trying to get out of the door. I’d wanted it to be as up to date as possible and suddenly it was making me really late. So that was just more stress on top of an already stressful morning.

The rush out of the house and the stress of going back to uni for the first time in so long made me nauseous and dizzy and I spent most of the drive breathing deeply and trying to keep my mind from spinning. My Mum had very kindly said she’d drive me to London since I’m still feeling very wary of public transport, especially the underground, so we talked and listened to music and by the time we pulled up outside the uni building, I was more excited than nervous. It felt so strange to be back, like it had only been a couple of days and a century at the same time since I’d last been there.

I’d expected to feel nervous there – I mean, I’ve been nervous everywhere but my house since the pandemic began – but given the strict safety procedures, I felt really safe and relaxed. It took me by complete surprise but it was so nice and being back there kind of felt like coming home; I have been studying there, on and off, for the last six years after all.

Slowly, the ten of us that had turned up to the session congregated and we were all just so excited, like a bunch of seven year olds at a birthday party. Some of us had never actually met each other in real life – as a fully online student, there was only one person I’d met before we went into lockdown – so it was very exciting to finally meet these people who I’d only ever seen on a screen. Having said that, it was somewhat weird to be saying, “It’s so nice to meet you!” to people I’ve had hours of classes, discussions, and laughs with.

We were all hanging out and chatting, catching up since most of us haven’t seen each other – even on a screen – for several weeks, when Sophie, our tutor and course leader, showed up to run the session. She was as excited to see us as we were to see her. It was so lovely to see her: I’ve known her for almost seven years and she’s been so supportive, both of my songwriting and of me as a person. So, yeah, I was super pleased to see her in real life again.

We got ourselves in a circle and had a bit more of an official catch up before taking turns playing songs and talking about our projects. I hadn’t heard music from most of the people there so that was really cool and inspiring and everyone’s working on such fascinating projects. I kept finding myself volunteering as a potential cowriter over and over, despite the voice in my head saying, “You already have so much to do!” The projects were just so fascinating.

I got to play two songs: the first was the song that really got my project rolling, a song I wrote a little over a year ago to a family friend who also has Autism; the second is a new song about my experience of OCD. The newer one was scary to perform but it seemed to go down well, which was reassuring. The whole session was just so fun and so good for me, for my mental health. I wanted to stay and hang out with everyone, even after the session was over, but since my Mum was driving me home, it wasn’t fair to ask her to wait any longer. So I said my goodbyes, made plans to meet up again, picked up my uni’s own facemasks (I mean, that’s the weirdest school merch I’m ever gonna get), and headed out to find my Mum.

On the drive home, I slowly came down from my adrenaline high until I was utterly exhausted. I did manage to catch up with my Mum and then two of my parents on the phone – they wanted to know how my first time back had gone – before I completely ran out of energy. It felt like a very long journey but we finally drove back into Brighton.

We stopped quickly to see one of my parents and her finally finished garden office. It was really nice to see her – we’ve all been incredibly busy (or dealing with an epic migraine) – and her new office looked gorgeous. It could be pretty cool to have a studio like that one day…

Mum and I finally got home, fed the hoard of hungry cats (who seemed to think they’d been abandoned), and crashed in the living room, continuing our rewatch of Grey’s Anatomy. I tried to work on a post for the blog but I was so tired and so drained that I barely managed a handful of sentences in the few hours I sat there. Eventually I just gave up and went to bed but it was still a struggle to sleep, just as it normally is; my thoughts started racing and I just couldn’t grab ahold of any of them long enough to settle. I don’t know how long it took to get to sleep but it was definitely after 1am, possibly even later.

So much has changed in the last three hundred and sixty five days. I look back at my last Mass Observation Day diary entry and my life is so different, in so many different ways. Last year, I was so scared, so terrified that I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t do anything because I was so scared. All I could do was sleep and bury myself in the familiar worlds of Fanfiction. I’m still scared but I’m also happy, at least some of the time. I have bad days but I also have good days, even really good days, and just that is a huge deal. I’m writing a lot, researching for my project, and facing my fears around the pandemic. Sometimes I can’t believe that the last fifteen months have happened but I only have to look at myself to see that they did: I’ve been through a lot and changed so much. And that’s just looking inwards. Looking outwards – at people I know, the communities I’m a part of, the world at large – is far too overwhelming to sum up right now in one day’s diary entry.


If you’ve been keeping a diary or still want to jot down some thoughts about the 12th, I would really encourage you to do so and send it to the archive. The page is here, in case you’d like to submit or learn more about this and their other projects.