Sunday, 27 January 2013

Something Close To Normal

Well, just now it seems to be fairly "normal" round here.  We still miss our dear old puss-cat and the house seems quiet and a bit empty without him.  But we're getting on with our lives - you have to really.

* * *

I'm busy helping my mum, as usual, but she is coping a bit better now, which is a relief to both of us.  She's sorted out some problems she was having with the carers who come in on the three days that I don't go to make her lunch & tea - and she is a lot happier with the new arrangement, which starts at the beginning of February.  I will still be going over as usual, but a lady my mum has known for years is taking on the other days, but hopefully there will be less problems with the timekeeping and arrangements for the other days (phew!).

* * *

Last Tuesday I went to Milton Keynes, to visit an old friend, M, who I hadn't seen for quite a long time.  We had lunch and a great chat, during which I told her about James' music lessons at school.  He has been learning the classical guitar for about seven years, but recently the school have sponsored him to have lessons on the double bass. 

He started towards the end of last term and has had about five or six lessons now.  Because he has learned the guitar, which is tuned in the same way, he has picked up the bass very quickly and is already playing pieces that would be graded at Grade 4 or 5. 

He's very enthusiastic and we had been thinking that we might have to rent a double bass at some point, as he was finding it difficult to get the use of the practice room at school - there is only one practice room that contains a double bass and it's not quite small enough to take backwards & forwards on the schoool bus! 

So, I mentioned the double bass lesson arrangement and how keen James has been.  M's reply was "Would he like a double bass?".  Her son, B. is a musician and had played both guitar, bass guitar and also the double bass, for a while, but apparently the instrument had been sitting in the spare bedroom for about four years, unused.  She said she was a bit tired of dusting it and would I like to take it home!

I came home with a 3/4 sized double bass in my car (it did fit - just - good thing it wasn't a full-sized one!).  It's on long-term loan, for as long as James wants to use it.  I am just so thrilled for him - how generous!
Now it lives in the corner of the dining room and is used every day!
I need to find someone who can give it a bit of an overhaul and also check over the two bows we were given with it; one of those is in a rather sad state - it needs to be restrung - but the other seems okay and is quite a good one.  James is over the moon and can hardly resist playing it at all hours of the day and night.  I have had to threaten that I'll take it back, if he won't stop fiddling with it when he should be doing homework!
* * *
I've been finding some time to work on various bookbinding projects.  I have three commission books to work on, which are all at the planning or quote stage, but it looks as if I'll get those done in plenty of time. 
I've been able to make a few smaller items and start on a project that I have thought about for a while.

I've made some more leather books. These are pocket-sized journals with a longstitch binding.
And a cream leather book, with covers lined in a beautiful piece of soft, fine, gold-marbled red paper (which was actually given to me by a fellow blogger at the Bloggers' Weekend, in November 2011 - I saved it until I found a special project for it!). 
This is big enough to be a guest book, or a sketchbook, as well as a special large-sized journal. I gave it a longstitch binding in deep red waxed linen, to go with the red lining of the covers. 
And this is the start of the Project:
These are Guest Book Covers, in grey linen. 
They have a hinged section, for a side-binding (like stab-stitch, screw-posts or perhaps a ribbon-tied binding) 
The covers are lined with plain, soft white art paper (the paper behind this cover is ready-cut sheets of cream text paper, which could be bound into this album.

The idea is that I can sell a customised book, without having to do all the work completely from scratch.  If it is already established that the covers are a particular size and are grey linen, also that they are pre-made, this takes away a significant chunk of the preliminary planning for me and also means I save time on making up the covers.
I will offer the customer the choice of coloured silk edging for the covers - like in the photos above.  They can choose pretty much any colour they want, as I have a very wide stock of silk pieces (52 individual colours/shades just now!). 
They can choose the type and colour of paper inside - either 30 pages of white or cream text paper, or 20 pages of stiff card for a photo album.
The covers can be lined with coloured art paper, to fit with the customer's colour scheme.
And the binding style can also be chosen, to be one of the styles shown - a Screw-Post binding, Ribbon-tied binding, or a Japanese-style Stab-Stitch binding. 
I have listed this pair of covers in my Etsy & Folksy shops.  So far I have had one enquiry, though the customer asked if she could please have the album shown in the bottom left corner of the last photo (above), only in blue rather than purple (!).  I think she kind-of missed the point...  I clarified the listing with a note, to make sure it was really clear what was on offer.  
Better luck should follow, I hope!  We will see...  I hope to make a few more pairs of ready-to-customise covers in the next few weeks.  I'm really hoping this will work out well, as I don't have time to make custom orders completely from scratch just now.  This seems like a good compromise. 
* * *

A Sketchbook, made with a sheet of gorgeous handmade paper, in a soft mauvey colour.  It has a deep red-purple suede quarter binding on the covers and a traditional Case style binding.  
The cover lining / flysheet are also in the same handmade paper.   
The book is bound with deep red-purple hemp cord.
This is a gift for a lovely friend.  The label will have her name stamped on it in matching mauve ink. 
It's going in tomorrow's post!
And that's about it for now - my "Normal Life".
Off to make my mum's tea for her now... bye all!

Monday, 7 January 2013

A Very Fine Cat Indeed

This is a sad post, but I want to write it anyway.

Today our dear, beloved cat Sherlock fell peacefully asleep, after struggling with health problems for some weeks.

We will miss him sorely.  He was beautiful, gentle, soppy, sweet, friendly, curious, happy, demanding, grateful, good company, soft, fluffy, cuddly, funny, sometimes grumpy or sulky, always a real Cat.  He was our pet, our friend.  He was a paid-up member of our Family and we all loved him very much.

Sherlock had been receiving treatment from the vet for kidney problems, for a couple of years.  He also had high blood pressure, so there were tablets for this.  Recently he began to have daily painkillers to help him with arthritic pain in his back legs.  But otherwise, once the medicines were working effectively, Sherlock was a healthy, happy, normal cat of 15 years old. 

However, in October we noticed that he had started to chew at his tongue and/or stick it out sometimes, as if there was something bothering him.  When this didn't improve, I mentioned it to the vet at his routine blood test appointment.  She said that perhaps he had a small ulcer on his tongue and we should keep an eye on him, but return to the vets' if it didn't improve after a few weeks.  He also seemed to have conjunctivitis, as his right eye was watery and sticky, so she gave us drops for this.

The tongue chewing never really stopped, but it did improve, so that he did this quite rarely.  The eye problem cleared up at first, but then seemed to come back again.  I used the remainder of the eye drops, which did help.  However, Sherlock then began to sneeze, sniff, lick his nose, groom his face and the eye flared up again, becoming runny and sore-looking.  So we went back to the vets' in mid-December.  The vet thought he might have cat flu, but was a bit concerned because the side of his face seemed to be swollen, although it was not painful. She gave him an injection of long-acting antibiotics, more eye drops and said that if he didn't improve, we should bring him back again.

Over Christmas, Sherlock seemed happy enough, though not too keen on a lot of company at once.  He hid himself upstairs when all the family were here - but that wasn't too unusual, since he often did this when the small children were around (he was never fond of babies).  He was eating well, playing his "morning game" (James giving him his meds, by rolling the tablets along the floor for him to chase and eat), exploring outside, drinking water - generally being "Sherlock", except that he was perhaps a bit more sleepy than usual. 

But his face didn't improve. His eye didn't get better.  If anything, the swelling was a bit bigger.  Perhaps he had an abcess in his mouth or sinuses?  We made another vet appointment after Christmas, to see the "eye expert" at the vets', who knows the most about eyes, faces etc.   He had as good a look at Sherlock as he could, considering that Sherlock - our gentle, soft, silly old cat - was swearing and hissing at him before his carry-box was even placed on the examining table, for us to open it.   It was agreed that, although the facial swelling didn't seem to hurt, it did need examination under anaesthetic.

Last Wednesday evening we dropped off Sherlock for an overnight stay in the vetinary hospital.  He was given extra fluids, to support his kidneys (as happened when he had his teeth done in March), then on Thursday he was sedated and examined. 

The vet called me, while Sherlock was under the anaesthetic, to say that it was a tumour.  The tumour was in the side of his face, had grown behind his eye - which was causing the eye problems.  It was also growing into the roof of his mouth.  It was inoperable and Sherlock would die from it sooner, or later. 

The decision was to bring him round and take him home to be nursed.  He hadn't been showing symptoms of pain or unhappiness before the vets' visit, so I thought it best to give him the chance to live as long as he could; so long as he was able to still enjoy a good enough quality of life to make being with us worthwhile.  We all discussed it and felt that, as long as Sherlock was not in pain, unhappy, suffering, we would care for him and nurse him. 

That was last Thursday.  He came home, seemed glad to be here and pottered about for a couple of days.  However, he didn't seem to want to eat very much and didn't really bounce back from the anaesthetic (the vet said today, that he would have felt so much better in March, after painful teeth had been removed, that he picked up quickly and ate well because it no longer hurt; this time eating wasn't so attractive, he felt tired and unwell, so he didn't recover well). 

By Saturday Sherlock was rather subdued.  He started spending more time sleeping and less time in our company.  He was less keen to go out.  On Saturday he ate almost nothing, except a little tuna and drank very little, except for his morning "shower" - where he would drink the water from the shower tray - and some spring water from the tuna can. 

On Sunday he was more subdued still and in the evening it became obvious he was suffering from serious constipation and pain in his abdomen, pacing around, crying etc.  We did what we could to make him comfortable.  Eventually he settled down to sleep and we left him in peace for the night.

This morning, Davey was up at 5am, for a business trip.  He messaged me to say that Sherlock had not stirred from his bed - which he would normally do, so he could sit next to Dave while he drank his morning coffee.   When I went down, he was still on his bed and didn't want to get up. 

I warmed some skimmed milk and syringe-fed it to him.  After that, he got up and stretched, took a bit of a walk around, had a short trip out the back door, then drank some tuna-water, before returning to his bed.  He was obviously ill and very dehydrated.  I rang the vet as soon as they opened for the day, then took him down to see the same vet as last week.

I had hoped that they could help him; that the constipation could be solved with a tablet or injection and that they could perhaps put him back on a drip for a day or so.  I hoped to bring him home and keep him well cared for, while he recuperated.  After all, he was fairly chipper when he went to the vet last week, so he could probably pick up okay and be with us for a while yet.

The vet was very kind, but explained that Sherlock's kidneys were failing.  He would be feeling horribly ill - which was borne out by him growling and moaning if we touched him too much.  In order to sort him out, they would have to give him more anaesthetic, which would kill him, as his kidneys couldn't take it.

I had to make the heart-breaking decision to let him be put to sleep this morning.  We decided on an injection, rather than using a catheter in his arm, as that would be distressing and undignified for him.  It would take longer, but I wanted him to die with dignity intact, with someone who loved him close by, to stroke him, talk to him, tell him how much he was loved, what a special and wonderful cat he was, how we would miss him. 

So that is what happened.  He had an injection and drifted into a gradually deepening sleep.  I stayed with him until he was gone, then covered him with his soft blanket and left the vets by the back door.  They were so kind; the bill will be sent on later, they will arrange a cremation and we will receive his ashes, so we can scatter them in his favourite part of the garden.

I miss him already.  At lunch time I looked for him, to give him his food - no Sherlock.  When I sat down to work, I looked to see if he was in his favourite spot on the back of the sofa - no Sherlock.
Those who've lost a person or pet who they loved, will know what I mean (Sherlock was a Person to us, not "just a cat").  There's a hole in the family now. 

The comforting thing is that we have lovely memories, photos and stories about Sherlock, that we can look at, read, talk about.  He'll never be forgotten and I hope that he'll be glad to see us again some day.

* * *

In Memory of Sherlock Gillum
who peacefully fell asleep
10am, Monday 7th January 2013,
aged almost 16 years
Much loved, much missed.
"A Very Fine Cat Indeed"
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