Saturday, 9 November 2013

Of Birthdays, Tulips, Princesses and Cats

Today - tonight - would have been Top Dog and Under Dog's fourteenth birthday.
I can still hardly bear to think of them, even though it's almost a year since they died.
I have spent most of the year, I find, expecting Top Dog to suddenly appear, especially when I've been away. Driving home from the airport, I have to remind myself that he won't come running out to greet me.
I am sure everyone feels the same, about anyone they have loved and lost.
It's a tough one to get used to.

Top Dog and Under Dog sleeping the sleep of the just. As they do now.

I came across their collars the other day, folded together in a drawer, their mother's collar with them.
I could have wept.
The resonance of them still fills the quiet corners of this place.

But it has not been a mournful day. Far from it - despite the lowering sky and steely edge to the breeze.
I have been out in the yard potting up tulip bulbs, the ever-faithful Model Dog at my side.
The TeenQueen doesn't really like such pointless activities, especially if there are no bones involved, so after a while she opted to keep Model's bed warm in the cosy kitchen.

Potting tulips is such an obvious thing to do, but somehow it has largely eluded me until now.
Of course, they look wonderful in vast drifts as well, but, lovely as it is, I'd need a tad more space, and maybe a handful of full-time gardeners to achieve something like this.

Thank heavens I didn't have to plant these

Over the years I have planted I don't know how many tulips in the flower beds, and for one season they rise, stately and beautiful, but generally they don't put in many subsequent appearances. Our climate is too damp, or perhaps the slugs and snails eat them, or mice, or people steal the bulbs from under my nose - who can say? But last spring, on Gardener's World, Carol Klein said she always planted tulips in pots,  and at last I woke up to the blindingly obvious.

Pink tulips with a touch of orange - amongst my favourites

The massed effect, without disembowelling the flower bed, trashing bulbs already planted in the one spot you choose to excavate, and driving yourself into Bedlam.
I can't wait for them to bloom
Meanwhile I'll make do with fabulous paintings to brighten my days.
This one cheers me up no end.

Judith I Bridgland's wonderful painting of Tulips and Cherry Blossom

And these tulips, by another Scottish artist, Fiona Sturrock, never fail to cheer me up.
Her next exhibition runs from November 15-17 at Edinburgh Art Fair at the Corn Exchange. I wish I could go and see it.

Tulips and Lemon by Fiona Sturrock

Tulips by Fiona Sturrock

Tulips in Antique Jug by Fiona Sturrock

Beautiful, all of them.
Oh, how I wish I could paint.

The tulips weren't the only bright note to my day.
At lunchtime our friend Colin dropped by, as promised, to deliver a special present.
Three of Napoleon's grand-daughters.

You may remember Napoleon. I will never forget him, and like my lovely dogs, I miss him regularly.
He had so much character, and, despite his small stature (we can say that out loud, now that he's gone), he dominated the hen's paddock.

The Emperor Napoleon with his Little Empress

He caused me untold anxieties -as on the day when he was not to be found - anywhere - and, by dint of climbing a ladder to look over our high walls, I espied him in the wild churchyard behind our garden. I had to walk round, pick him up and carry him home through the street.
There are other, far more terrifying incidents that come to mind - one involving a dozen bullocks - but that is by-the-by. He was a dear creature and I loved him. I don't know if he loved me, but he was devoted to his wives, Josephine, then the Little Empress and finally Mrs Smith (aka the Golden Princess or Dolly).

I am thrilled to bits to have three of his grand-daughters. Although they came from his third marriage, they bear no resemblance to Mrs Smith, but look like Napoleon dressed in the Little Empress's attire.
They all have rather dinky little hats - somewhat more feminine than the Emperor's tricorne - and the larger of the three certainly has her grandfather's bearing..
I shall look forward to seeing how they grow up.

Napoleon's grand-daughter - she has his air

Is that a smaller version of a tricorne I see?

Tonight they are tucked into the spare pen I built for the Escapees. They are a little uncertain of their new home, and have spent the afternoon being stared at through the mesh by all and sundry. At dusk, I found them sitting on their roof in the rain, rather than cuddling inside. I put them into their shelter, and hope that by now, they are all fast asleep. Tomorrow they might feel up to staring back.

And last but by no means least, I have received queries as to why the cats never appear.
It's not because I have done away with them, nor have they left home via the churchyard.
It's just that I don't see much of them. Now that autumn is turning into winter, they have become lazier than ever. After their breakfast they retire to bed and don't get up again until supper time. And after supper they retire to bed... you're getting the idea.

Pushy has been performing quality control on the new pole warmer.

Pushy warming the pole warmer

And Hobbes is gearing up for a leading role in 'Red Sails in the Sunset'

Barley sugar ears

As for little Pixie - as she is very nearly blind, she can't see how lovely she looks on this Peruvian throw, but luckily, we can.

Pretty little Pixie in pink


  1. Tulips in pots! i want to know more. Where I live used to be a flower nursery belonging to James Maddox, the Tulip Man mentioned in Anna Pavord's book, so tulips have a special significance here. We had some super gardeners who planted a wonderful variety of tulip bulbs. a few survive, but I think the squirrels have had most of them.
    Lovely to see your three cats again. How old are they now?
    And Napoleon's grandchildren - what wonderful hats!
    As for Top Dog and Under Dog, it does get easier. Two and a half years after Cat died and I was talking about him this afternoon, still kssing him, but without that awful lurch of the heart. I still miss the dogs we had when I was growing up. Human or animal, if you have loved them, it hurts. But as the quote I have above my desk says:
    Tant qu'une personne n'as pas aimė un animal, une partie de l'âme de cette personne reste endormie.

    Anatole France

  2. I love the quote from Anatole France. I've not heard it before, but couldn't agree more. Thank you for sharing it. Yes, tulips in pots! They look wonderful, and (in my garden anyway) will be much happier (unless some savage winter weather gets them). It's probably not too late, so hie thee hence to a nursery and buy some and plant them (a good sized pot, they need to be 4-5 inches deep, and a bit of grit helps as they do like good drainage. Would the squirrels dig them up? We don't have any here, so I'm not sure. A bit of netting tied over the pot would help I guess.
    The cats are - goodness, how old are they? Pushy is nearly 14, although she doesnt seem it to me. Hobbes is 8 and Pixie is 5, although I still think of her as a baby.
    Yes, missing animals does get easier as the years go by, but it doesn't go away. I miss them all, some more keenly than others.
    My computer is on a go slow and I gave up trying to comment on your crossword post. The In-Charge worked for The Daily BellyLaugh at one time, and before that for the Grauniad, and finally the FT, but I have to confess I don't read newspapers and crosswords turn my brain to a blank slate!

  3. Reading this today and also your linked post is both shared sorrow and shared affirmation. It has been mostly cats for us--and a few notable dogs, several horses. Always when one has gone, it takes time to remember that they are no longer there. It seems that if I turned quickly enough a cat or a dog would be in his/her familiar place. I've been blessed with friends over the years who understand the wrench of parting with a much-loved pet--with them, one doesn't have to explain or apologize for the depth of feeling involved.
    Two of our dear cats are 15+ years old and we can see them gently diminishing. The horse is 28. I dread the time when we must decide that life has become too painful for them. At such times, when the sorrow of parting is fresh and sore, I have to remind myself that a home without pets would be very empty.

    1. How very true that is - feeling that if you just turned quickly enough, you'd see them in their bed or chair. And it was months before I was able to go back to the woods where we walked almost every day of their long lives. I still go only rarely, but I'm sure that will change in time.
      I am sad for you that 3 of your family of animals are all getting to that certain age. It's never a good time, but yes I totally agree - a home without animals wouldn't be a home.

  4. Replies
    1. They are, Pix. Although Hobbes has asked me to mention that he prefers to be described as 'handsome' or 'dashing' rather than sweet, and was extemely put out to be referred to as 'Kitty'! He is descended from Tigers, you know.
      He is, however, of a very forgiving nature.

  5. Glad you enjoyed my Tulips and Cherry Blossom painting! Thank you for writing about it. It's of the tulips I planted in my garden and my faithful cherry tree.

    Kind regards
    Judith Bridgland

    1. Judith - I'm very honoured that you visited my blog! I love your painting. I wish it was hanging on my wall. It's just beautiful - as is your faithful cherry tree.


Ah, go on! Make my day - leave a comment!