Thursday 19 May 2016

Show, Don't Tell

When it comes to writing, one of the things I find most difficult is giving information through natural description and action rather than clunky exposition, so thought I'd share my day to try to practice this. Oh, and there is talk of blood and needles, so if that is something you struggle with but you still want to read, stop reading after I get the cat home.

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There was a fox in the front garden when I left my Dad's this morning. I pointed it out to my stepmother.

"It must be for Kieran," she told me. My sister had said her husband would arrive sometime this evening, but I wasn't sure why a fox would be coming to see him.She'd misheard me, thought I'd said 'box'.

He - the fox - visits them often and looked up at me as I passed. I crouched down and extended a hand, though he was too far away to sniff it and seemed disinclined to approach. Healthy looking, he was remarkably calm, not flinching as I moved closer on my way to my car.*

The ride home was lonely, and reaching my flat was worse: no kitty to greet me, and, strangely worse, no litter tray, no food bowls, no toys. Set up my work's laptop, to be greeted with the same frustrating messages as the last time I tried to connect remotely. Tried the fixes we'd suspected last time, to no avail. The IT support department in my company is not great, but the individual support guys in my building as fantastic and tried something else out, but that didn't work either.

The Freeholder's surveyor arrived**. I hovered, nervously, then left him to take measurements. Returned to my laptop. Tried more fixes: still no joy. Still no return call from the IT guys, so popped a quick email with some of my findings and got an email back: he was on a conference call and suspected I needed different software. Could I pop into the office today? Turns out, the software download would take half a day, and I had a blood test shortly so wouldn't have time. Grr.

Went to pick up Cat. She was very pleased to see me, let me pick her up and even leaned into me when I did so! Demanded my sister pet her.

My sister does not like cats at the moment. One of the tests they do when you're pregnant in China (and foreign and paying) that they don't do in Britain is for "that cat parasite" (Toxoplasma gondii). They don't do it in Britain because it gives a false positive about a third of the time, so my sister wasn't too worried at the first result. When the second test came back, she was less happy. The test can pinpoint when you were infected by looking at your IgG levels, which is very cool, so we know my cat's not to blame. And anyway, my sister says, Kitty is more like a dog than a cat. She petted her. Cat calmed. She washed her hands and returned. Cat wanted more petting. She refused.

Even my Dad likes Cat, and he hates cats. She ignored him the first few times they met, but when he was ready to be introduced she came running straight away. She knows how to charm people.

When I dropped her off, she jumped on the utility room work surface and gave her pathetic mew to my stepmum, stood nearest. I said she wanted to be petted, and my stepmum said she (stepmum) would pet her (Cat) once she (Cat) was comfortable but that she'd run away if she (stepmum) tried now - and put her hand out to demonstrate. I smiled as Kitty rubbed her face all over the hand.

The second ride home was less lonely. I had a few scrapes on my wrist where she'd reached for me every time I changed gear or touched the handbrake on our way over, and she was worse on the way back. Whenever I was stopped in traffic, I rested my fingers inside the fretwork of her carry-case door. The first time, she was so desperate to be petted she clawed the back of my hand trying to draw it closer. I snatched it away, and she was more careful after that, but every time if I couldn't feel her breath it was because her fur was pressed against my fingers.

She was delighted to be home, less pleased when I raced straight out for my blood test. 

The nurse greeted me and smiled when she knew I was ok after I, clumsy as ever, attempted to trip myself up as I stood from the plastic waiting room seat. Led me through to her room and explained it was only the coeliac's test they needed to redo, because the lab hadn't done it (which was reassuring, because part of me was worrying that this time they'd managed to find something wrong in that battery of blood tests). A slight scratch - a stronger scratch than most blood tests, but her cheerful demeanour more than compensated for the blood that didn't make it into the needle - and I was done.

I walked home with a pleasant endorphin buzz that led me through the graveyard instead of round it. The cherry blossom was beautiful and I went to take a photo before remembering I have loads of photos looking up at cherry blossom. Could I get a photo looking down? Sadly, neither of the neighbouring trees had limbs in reach for me to climb, so I abandonned the idea and went home: probably for the best, as my lunch hour had been rather a lot longer.

I might not have been able to work on what I'd been intending, but I was determined to do something so Cat spent the afternoon helping me type, from memory, a guide for one bit of software I'm working on. It's full of mistakes and needs screenshots, but it's something that had been put off for lack of time so I don't feel completely useless. I was surprised when Husbit phoned to see if I'd picked up bread - partly because I hadn't noticed we needed any, but mostly because I hadn't realised it was nearly time to finish for the day. 

After dinner, walked over to Bells's to give him a key - he's Cat-sitting next time we're away. You'll know him better as Adam/Hyperdrive or Aaron or Tanna and soon Kito.

Walking back, spotted a couple of guys lounging on grass. Had spotted them on the way over, too, and was half expecting some comment this time - they looked the type, but they stayed quiet. I never know whether to smile when people are sat there looking through you. I smile at most people, so I gave a half smile neither of them saw, but which in my mind was mysterious and would leave them thinking I know something they don't.

Which is probably true. I know the square root of 169 and that 170 doesn't have a rational route and what rational means when applied to numbers. I know Juliet doesn't wonder where Romeo is, but rather why he has to be one of her family's sworn enemies just because of his name: I know Shakespeare should be lived and performed, not studied as a dead text, which is a better knowledge. And I know people love me and care for me, which is the best knowledge of all.

*I saw a fox once as I cycled to work. It was trotting along the pavement, half a chicken carcass in its mouth, and no one else batted an eyelid. It even paused to wait for a car to pull out of a driveway, then carried on as if humans and foxes had always lived a convivial shared existance. I wondered if this was a fox with such a high bluff skill he'd tricked the other humans into thinking he was one of us, but I'd fluked my sense motive.

**I probably didn't need to de-cat the flat: they're a contractor, not the Freeholder themselves, and I'm sort of allowed a cat. It's like this: the Lease says I need Freehold consent for a pet, but they can't unreasonably withhold that consent. The people we bought the flat from took it from someone else who'd applied for that consent, and decided to assume they'd bought the consent along with the Lease, and we made the same cheeky decision because most Freeholders don't mind. Only since then we applied for consent for alterations that also can't be unreasonably withheld and, turns out, the Freeholder's interpretation of 'reasonable' isn't the same as mine, nor (from talking to a friend who's a legal secretary dealing with such things) the legal definition. When I challenged them, the response was "take us to Court and prove it," which we couldn't afford to do and they knew it. 


  1. Always fun to read your work ;-)
    And the answer is 13 (yeah, I have that one memorized, too) and damn right you're loved.