The naming of cats

Mr PancksLoki_Pancks_Gobbelino_ClarkFalance_Boo_Clark
‘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?

From T.S. Eliot, The Naming of Cats

This week’s optional theme, ‘what you are good at’, is the sort of thing to send me into a flap and then a non-Euclidean spiral.  I don’t think that I am good at anything. I asked my husband, who said some very nice things (evidently I know how to find places and am patient.) But it still feels uncomfortable to claim such qualities.

So I have decided to be random and claim to be good at naming cats. I base this on a statistical sample of two: Falance Boo and Loki-Pancks Gobbolino. Falance came to live with us when my daughter was six. Her suggestions, such as ‘Rainbow Princess’, were rejected on the entirely reasonable grounds that (a) he was a boy, (b) he would be taking up residence on a rather rough East London estate and (c) they were rubbish.

‘Falance’ comes from a lovely book called The Witch’s Boy. He is a magical cat who agrees to become a man. I like it because it’s unusual: we’ve never met another Falance-cat. A few people mis-pronounce it as Valance and I can only assume they think it is a tribute to the home of the Krays, Vallance Road, a few minutes walk from here. ‘Boo’ came from her desire for him to have a middle name: he used to jump out a lot. Falance is a black and white British shorthair – or moggy – and the most unfriendly, stand-offish cat in the world.

It was heart-breaking, watching my daughter’s attempts to cuddle him or get him to sit on her lap. Worrying that she would become permanently disfigured or infected by claw attack, I fell for the ‘Get a Burmese; they’re like dogs’ line. We did and he is.

‘Loki’ is of course the mischievous/evil Norse god, who ultimately brings about Ragnarok: the end of the world. The cat works tirelessly towards this, not least by regularly chewing through any power cable left outside of a locked cupboard.

‘Pancks’ comes from the character in Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit. The BBC series was on when the cat arrived, making the same weird sound in his throat that the brilliant Eddie Marsan did in his portrayal.

Gobbolino‘ is another witch’s cat: one who just wants to live with a family and be loved. For reasons still far from clear, Loki-Pancks has come to be known as ‘Piggle’…
‘But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover–
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.’

Tiny, tiny snow

Snow at Stepney City Farm
I am in an entirely snow-free Folkestone, waiting to see teachers at my daughter’s school. I’m also trying with little success to use a Mac for the first time. That is me you can hearing swearing.

I have spent ages trying to make the link above into a picture: now it will have to be done post-deadline to keep my self-competetive streak going.

So this will be brief: like the East London snow. I love snow and would be happy to have four months of it every winter. I look on in envy at family in Sweden with their school skiing lessons, deep perfect white billows of snow, triple glazing and unfazed infrastructure.

Children there are outside playing, learning and living: somehow safe from the terrifying hazards that await anyone who has managed to get anywhere here. One of my happiest memories is being met by one of my half-brothers with a pulka -small sledge – being pulled by his large dog, ready to transport my delighted child.

A school just minutes away from the Farm cancelled a visit on Tuesday. I think we had fully five cm of snow in places. I sit there in an unheated building, unable to move for layers of clothing that make little difference. Then home, to the cold howling through gaps in Victorian sash windows, throwing another firelog from Sainsbury’s on the tiny hearth and persuading a recalcitrant cat to act as an extra hot water bottle.

London isn’t designed for snow. It’s only moments before the white perfection that hides the litter and spit on the street morphs into dirty slush. That unmistakable cruchyesque feeling underfoot is fleeting and maybe all the more precious for that.

One of the loveliest things to come out of the flurry was this post on East London Snowmen by the Gentle Author at the always wonderful Spitalfields Life blog. Treat yourselves to a daily read, whatever the weather.

Facebook: To be or not to be

Yes, that’s the omnitalented Professor Brian Cox in the photo. It’s my Facebook profile picture and has been since I ambushed him after an Infinite Monkey Cage radio recording (but only as he was leaving the pub.)
Looking through my posts and pictures, much of my content is along the lines of ‘Look: I’m having a good time with friends/family/cats/ambushed tv physicists’. I realise it’s irrational of me to get bored and dismissive of the same type of thing from others and to resent feeling that I have to ‘like’ it.
I’ve been thinking of leaving Facebook for almost a year now and have been inspired by one of the people I think best ‘gets’ social media: Rob Dyson from Whizzkidz. Here are his thoughts on leaving Facebook.
It is tempting to say simply ‘what he said’: there are some interesting thoughts for professional communicators and I can write ‘ditto’ under almost all of his comments.
I’m on there mainly to keep an eye on my daughter, which I am sure is a futile exercise. And I’m an admin of the work Facebook page. I’ve noticed how views there have halved since recent changes.
The main reasons I haven’t yet left are laziness (copying all those photos etc) and worry. I worry that I will miss out on what is posted and, perhaps more tellingly, that no-one will realise that I have gone…
Have any of you jumped ship? I’d love to hear any views.

The writing habit


It hasn’t been a good week for writing. Or indeed for anything other than cancellations. Three days’ work, one I-bet-it-was amazing show at the Bloomsbury Theatre with Robin Ince, Simon Munnery and other ace comedians and today’s first Pilates class all happened without me. Thanks again , norovirus.

One thing I have managed to do is stay upright long enough to start putting something on 750 words. I really recommend it to anyone who wants to get into a writing habit. I’d heard about the idea of ‘morning pages’ when I read Julia Cameron’s Book The Artist’s Way ages ago. These are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing done first thing in the morning.

I have masses of notebooks (aren’t they irresistable? What is the collective noun for notebooks? A debt of notebooks, for me, I reckon.) I also like writing longhand. But I’ve never managed to get into the habit.

The 750 words site is working for me so far (though certainly not first thing in the morning.) I like the way you’re told when you reach the word target and seeing lovely crosses on dates feels more of a motivator than filling pages. There are also animal badges…

I’ve signed up to a challenge to complete each day in February, with a self-selected reward and punishment publicly visible (though you don’t need to display your own name.) I also like the ‘analysis’ of your writing: mood, word frequency etc that’s pictured in the rather scrappy screenshot. Onwards.

Can’t write? Won’t write

the-beguiling-of-merlin-merlin-and-vivien-1874_jpg!BlogI spotted Weekly Blog Club early last year, rushed to join and then wrote nothing. This is a familiar pattern that I tell myself is the downside of being a perfectionist, choosing to do nothing rather than turn out something less than perfect. And that is, of course, for me, an excuse.

Weekly Blog Club is a wonderful idea: I’ve enjoyed reading posts via Twitter over 2012. I’ve thought about trying to join in again, realised I have about half an hour before the first deadline (I love deadlines) and have set up this blog. 

My day job over the next just-over-a-year is three days a week at Stepney City Farm, where I do manage most of the time to write all manner of content for publicity.  That’s the factual stuff.

I have a little over 50,000 words of an unfinished novel I wrote in November for NaNoWriMo and I want to get it written and edited during this year (the picture was the inspiration) , along with writing more short stories. So I am ignoring the screams of protest from myself about having an awful-looking, incomplete blog site and pressing ‘Finish’ now so that I can join you to write *catches breath*.

I’m hoping to contribute thoughts on writing fact and fiction (30 years in public sector and not-for-profit PR; just over six months in fiction.) I may end up posting pictures of the cats instead: please do shout at me if that happens too often.