In the thick of it

The GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams have started in the UK – these are exams that are taken by pretty much every high school pupil in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland have their own system) as they reach the end of their secondary school education at age 15/16 – and not so small daughter is taking hers this year.

Paper booklets of geography revision notes lie on a wooden table.

To her credit, she’s getting stuck into her revision in an admirable way – far more conscientiously than I ever did (her mother was never very good at revision because she didn’t like going over things she had already learnt) – and this afternoon, I have been helping out with Geography (tomorrow’s exam) and now I know more about coastal erosion than I thought I ever needed to know.  Feel free to test me on landslips, spits and bars and the hydraulic action of waves 🙂

There isn’t an exam every day; they’re spread out over about 6 weeks with a week off in the middle for school holidays.  They started on 16 May and the last exam is on 28 June although not so small daughter will have finished before then.  It’s a long time for our young people to have the stress of exams and revision hanging over them, especially as this year group is another school year affected by lockdown and online learning.  There have been adaptations to the exams, at least, and I have nothing but praise for the school who have done everything they can to help with the process, but I won’t lie – I’m very glad it’s not me!  If you’ve got young people in your life who are also in the thick of it, I’m sending them lots of luck and hope that they will get through them and enjoy the success they deserve.

Two pizzas on a grey slate table. The closest pizza has a green rocket salad in the centre

Not so small daughter and I had some time off yesterday which we spent in Manchester and treated ourselves to lunch at a large pizza chain as that was what not so small daughter fancied.  There was a matinee on at the theatre next door of the musical version of “Beauty and the Beast” and we saw lots of very small girls dressed as Belle come into the restaurant which made us smile as not so small daughter may have wanted to dress like that once, but wild horses wouldn’t persuade her into a satin yellow ballgown these days!

I haven’t mentioned our kittens for a couple of posts and they are growing like weeds – every time I look at them, they seem to be a little bit bigger!  I don’t think they have realised that they are getting bigger, or perhaps they have but don’t let it stop them, and they are still living up to their nickname of “Teeny Trashers” and still tightroping across the curtain poles – they don’t even wait for the curtains to be closed these days, I have had to do more than a few super-human leaps across the sofa to catch one or the other of them as they have fallen off (imagine a slow-mo in a film as the hero leaps to catch a ball or some missile against all odds and that’s how I see myself as I launch across the room).  They also seem to think that our laundry clothes horse is put there especially for them to climb up and fight on …

A tabby and white kitten is balancing on a wooden clothes horse pole. In the background is a blue Aga and there is a pair of red pyjama pants on the clothes horse. There is a clock on the wall and a brown wooden door in the background.A tabby and white kitten is fighting with a tortoiseshell kitten on a wooden clothes horse pole. In the background is a blue Aga and there is a pair of red pyjama pants on the clothes horse. A tortoiseshell kitten is balancing on a wooden clothes horse pole. In the background is a blue Aga and there is a pair of red pyjama pants on the clothes horse. There is a clock on the wall and a brown wooden door in the background.

These are slightly fuzzy photos as they were live action shots and the game usually follows the same format – one of the kittens will climb up, the other will follow closely behind, there will be an aerial battle of swiping and jumping from pole to pole before one falls off and the conquerer, having vanquished their opponent, surveys the scene from atop the clothes horse … and then it starts all over again.  Now that they are bigger, I am regularly picking up the clothes horse from the floor which is not ideal when I’m trying to dry clothes!

Also, did you notice my pile of hand knit socks drying on the Aga lid?  My socks are not just for show! 🙂

A tortoiseshell kitten is balancing on a wooden clothes horse pole. In the background is a blue Aga and there is a pair of red pyjama pants on the clothes horse. There is a clock on the wall and a brown wooden door in the background.

The kittens adore the dog.

A tortoiseshell kitten is lying on a red rug, gazing adoringly at a black dog. A tabby and white and a tortoiseshell kitten is lying on a red rug, gazing adoringly at a black dog.

He doesn’t look too upset with his fan club, does he?!  This wasn’t posed in anyway, I came into the room and there they were, all gazing adoringly at each other, although I think the dog is less impressed by the way the kittens are currently expressing their adoration for him by piddling on his bed.

There’s no chance of the dog getting his own back as this is Astrid’s bed of choice at the moment – this basket is on a shelf above our coat hooks and has hats and scarves in it, and usually one small tabby and white cat.  You can be sure that she doesn’t piddle in her own bed!

A sleepy tabby and white kitten peeps over the edge of a wicker basket. There is a green towel in the basket and the wall behind is green.

Also, I couldn’t resist showing you this photo … this is generally how we need to pick her up as this is how she seems to like it – she turns into Jelly Cat and purrs incredibly loudly as she hangs upside down.  Daft kitten!

A tabby and white kitten is being supported as she hangs upside down. In the background are books on bookshelves.

Hattie is completely obsessed by water.  If a tap is turned on, she’s there.

A tortoiseshell kitten is playing with the water in a white bathroom sink

She sports a damp punk hairdo a lot of time and there are often little wet footprints around the house.  She’s fallen into the bath a couple of times – entirely her own fault for teetering precariously on the edge – and I will be honest and say that I am getting more than a little worried at the thought of her going out into the big world with such a water obsession.  There are water butts and ponds and goodness knows what else out there that will not be good places for a water-obsessed kitten to be!

Ooh, it’s getting closer to the day when we need to let these little furries out of doors and I am not looking forward to it!  They love each other so much, my internal sheep-dog is already starting to fret about needing to keep them rounded up and safe together – I don’t remember being this worried about our other cats when they were this age, but this pair are a daft pair and I am worried that they have arrived to live with us without bringing their allotted quota of streetwise!

A tabby and white and a tortoiseshell kitten are sleeping together on a red rug.

I’m seriously thinking of investigating tracking devices in case they don’t come back, but I am reluctant to burden them with satellite-dish sized tags which could just result in me having a meltdown every time they come home later than I want them to.  Have you got any advice?  I’m not inclined to keep them as house cats because I do think that cats need to go outside – I’m hoping it all goes a bit more smoothly and safely than I am imagining!

I suspect that I am over-worrying before I need to and usually my cure for that is knitting socks … I’ve got plenty to show you about what’s on my needles and what’s just come off, but I’m going to leave that until my next post so that I don’t overstay my welcome on your screen 🙂

I won’t take too long to tell you about it, I promise, so I’ll see you again soon! xx


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54 Responses

  1. Fiona says:

    I think there are tracker dots suitable for pets as we may need one for the tortoise when husband finally deems her big enough to be let loose in the garden! As for kitten danger, well our completely common sense deficient cat manages to come home every day, thankfully. Daughters, though, year 11 is possibly worse for mums despite the angst traditionally belonging to the teen. It is a delight, though, to watch them become independent, even while wondering where all those years went. 🤗

    • winwickmum says:

      I love the idea of you tracking your tortoise! I forget that people still keep them as pets as that was really common when I was little but animal protection laws stopped the mass imports and they became less popular. I do like them, I hope yours enjoys your garden when she’s let out! Thank you for the reassurance about kitty common sense – I’m hoping they develop some! 🙂 xx

  2. Jan says:

    Cats live much longer if they are indoor cats only. We l0st one to a dog and one to a car and now, many cats later, we’ve had safe and long longing cats.

    • winwickmum says:

      Well, it’s certainly true that indoor cats don’t have to face dogs or cars, and we did lose a cat to a car once – it was heartbreaking. I don’t know that I want to spend the rest of our kittens’ lives not being able to open windows or doors for fear that they would escape, though, so we’d have to think quite hard about doing that. It’s obviously the safest option! 🙂 xx

    • Elise says:

      Cats are also very hard on native wildlife. There’s a lot of evidence that they kill a lot more than mice and impact a large area, not just backyards.

  3. Kathy says:

    I have a kitten nearing time to go outside too and I’m hoping my older cat will explain to her that she doesn’t need to wander far. Hopefully the attraction of me knitting will keep her near as she loves yarn and the needles moving.

  4. Ruth Howard says:

    Thanks again for your newsy post – I have 2 x grandchildren doing their exams and as you say – very stressful for them – wish your daughter well too – keep knitting the socks 🧦 it will keep you sane – with worrying about the kitties 🐈‍⬛ 🐱 as well – survive!! xxx

  5. Tineke says:

    I’ve gotta huge walled garden at my townhouse for my floofers, two gentlemen of high Persian birth. Fenced high to about three meters only my wild cat Lion could bridge in one leap. Nothing can come in and out. Kathryn of Crafternoon treats got two cattio’s. Perhaps an idea of making a huge cat cage? I had one at the farm, way too dangerous with all those huge machines. They loved to go out there through the window. I could sit in it with a book. It saves wildlife, and your two naughty cats will be saved too. Wish not so small daughter all the best with her exams.

    • winwickmum says:

      We’ve seen catios recently (I never knew they were a thing before!) but I don’t think one would work for us – I think our floofers (love that!) are going to be hunters so perhaps I shouldn’t worry about ponds and water butts because they’ll be too busy chasing mice! 🙂 xx

  6. Bunny says:

    I totally understand your concern about releasing your little Fur Balls into the Big Wide World. We took our cat to our vet where they installed a microchip directly under the skin of her neck. The microchip is linked to a pet locating service who would be able to identify my husband and I as the worried parents, as well as provide our contact information. Might this be an option for you?

    • Bunny says:

      I just wanted to add that anyone who finds our cat can bring her to any vet or SPCA where the staff are familiar with these microchips. There have been stories of several pets, separated for years, being able to be reunited with family members using this method despite changes in address since so many of us keep the same cell phone number.

    • winwickmum says:

      Yes, we’ve got our cats microchipped – that was a requirement of the Cats Protection shelter. I think my worry is that they may do something daft and I wouldn’t know where to start looking for them, although we survived for 18 years with our other cats in that situation so I am probably worrying out of turn! xx

  7. Helen says:

    Really enjoy your updates .. so interesting. I must admit none of my cats go outdoors .. not safe for them too many many animals would see as a feast. So admire your socks .. all beautiful. Your furbabies are adorable.

  8. Anne says:

    Why do your kittens need to go outside? I live in Australia and here many councils have a curfew on cats ( dusk ‘til dawn) or, increasingly, a 24hr outside ban. You can get or build terrific enclosures to give them outside safe time, if you wish. In Australia, cats are number 1 on the serial killer of our small wildlife list ( introduced foxes are a close number 2).

    • winwickmum says:

      I suppose it’s because traditionally, most cats have always gone outside here in the UK so it’s not occurred to me that we would insist on them staying indoors once they get older. The wildlife is potentially an issue although I have no problem with them seeing off mice or rats, and I think the timing of this will be such that the baby birds will have left the nests so hopefully there won’t be any feathery casualties this year. We haven’t got to the point of cat curfews here although who knows what might happen in the future?! xx

  9. Eleanor MacLean says:

    Would the kitties walk on a leash? I have see this around my neighbourhood! I have two cats; one is very streetwise and the other completely clueless. Fortunately, we have a good-sized fenced back yard and they stay within it. I’d go for a catio if our garden was smaller. I understand your worry, though.

    • winwickmum says:

      I have considered that as I’ve seen other people do this too … I’m hoping that I’m just over-worrying before the event and that they will be absolutely fine and their streetwise genes click in before too long! 🙂 xx

  10. Wendy says:

    Love your kitties and dog too. Fur envy here. Still knitting your sock pattern since the beginning 😀😀

  11. Jane says:

    I live in CA and unfortunately the coyotes that live around me like a little house pet if they get the chance. I let mine out after 8am and get them in as soon as I can in the afternoon! I fret if I can’t get them in by 6pm but they love their food and come in when I shake the box. They are mostly asleep on the sofa after lunch!

    • winwickmum says:

      That sounds like a dangerous place for pets to live, although you’ve obviously got a good system going on there. Our two love their food as well so I am hoping that a good shake of the food box will be the thing 🙂 xx

  12. Susan Rayner says:

    All the very best wishes for not so small daughter’s exams! Not sure I could have coped with them spread out like that – ours were all in one week – 3 hour exams – mostly two a day (I was living in America then)! Horrendous but we managed it somehow!
    The kittens are gorgeous and I hope they stay safe when they do venture outdoors – I know how you must be worried – love the photos with the dog especially! We have some like that from about 30 years ago – black Labrador and two black kittens!
    Have a good week.

    • winwickmum says:

      I don’t remember my exams being quite so spread out and I can’t remember if this is usual – somebody said that it might be this way this year in case anyone had been poorly as it gave them a bit of time to recover between exams. The good thing about them like this is that there is time to revise in between instead of having to try to do everything at once before they start, but I’m still really glad it’s not me! 🙂 xx

  13. Claire says:

    We have our 18 month old wearing an Ubeequee cat tracker, it was the smallest one we could find and its still quite big on him. They come with a monthly subscription cost (£2.99 for ours) but I’m guessing that would be per cat. Although he was 12 months when we got him, he had lived in a pen at Cats Protection most of his life so we were concerned about the big outdoors. He soon adapted though, took it slowly at first, gave us a few scares but quickly found his confidence. The vet told us not to pick him up to take him in/out – he needs to be able to follow his own scent to return, a helpful tip as I was tempted to pick him up to bring him back in. Best of luck!

    • winwickmum says:

      That’s really helpful, thank you! I hadn’t thought about the picking up part but it makes perfect sense. I’ll have a look at the tracker – I’m trying to talk myself out of needing one as I think it will make me worry about them more not less, but it will be helpful for me to at least look at them whilst I’m making my decision 🙂 xx

  14. Liz says:

    Very pleased to see a set of Mary Stewarts on your bookshelves (nosy retired librarian here!) I’m just back from a walking holiday in Western Crete, so have gone back to read the Moonspinners again with fresh enjoyment. I always love her vivid, accurate locations and feisty heroines: true comfort reading!

    • winwickmum says:

      Oh, I LOVE the Moonspinners, it’s one of my favourites, along with Touch Not the Cat – I think Thornyhold is my very favourite, it was the first of her books that I read and I have been caught up in the magic ever since! 🙂 I hope you had a lovely holiday! xx

  15. Candice says:

    My son is also doing GCSE at the moment. Thankfully seems to be coping so much better than his mocks – he was physically ill from stress with these. I have been giving him something called Sleepwell – milk with a little Valerian – to help him sleep better. Seems to have helped. Not sure if psychological or not. Hope your daughters exams go well. As for the fur babies, it’s a hard one. But I do believe they should choose for themselves if they wish to be indoor or outdoor cats. Makes for happier fur babies. I had a lovely tabby who unfortunately was hit by a car. When we got our next baby I was tempted to keep her in doors. Not easy though as we have 2 other cats. All 3 are pretty much home bodies, staying close to home most of the time. My mom has a cat that she has to keep in, as she is in a retirement village and the only way she got permission to have him with her was that he had to be kept in doors. She takes him for a walk twice a day, but I noticed when I was there visiting that he sits and stares out the security gate all day.

    • winwickmum says:

      I think there is too much pressure on mock exams which are, after all, just a practice so I am glad that your son is coping better this time round – I hope he gets the results he wants! I think you are right about the cats making their own decision to stay in or go out; we’ve also had cats hit by cars so perhaps that’s another reason why I’m so much more nervous about it all this time around, and maybe it’s too close to losing our old cats too. We’ve got a few weeks yet before they reach the six month “go outside” mark so we’ve got time to think about it! xx

  16. CJ says:

    GCSEs here as well, and A-levels, I am trying to hold my nerve! The cat photos are brilliant, my absolute favourite is the one with them stretched out in front of the dog, that made me laugh so much. My dog would go absolutely bananas if he found a kitten in the house, I admire how chilled yours is. CJ xx

    • winwickmum says:

      Oh you deserve a prize for coping with both GCSEs and A levels! I hope they all go to plan and that the stress doesn’t get too much xx Our dog doesn’t like other cats but loves his own – we did worry for a while when he got this pair that he wasn’t going to recognise them as “his” cats but they all get along fine now. He didn’t get to be in charge with our other two cats so he has made sure that he is this time! 🙂 xx

  17. suzanne webb says:

    How about letting the kitties have an outside run (if your garden is big enough) then they will have the best of both worlds?… I had my cats indoors as where I used to live people raced around and I was always worried that one of them would get run over.

    • winwickmum says:

      We’re actually in a really good spot for cats to be outside, although there are always dangers of course and cars are never that far away – our last cats lived till 17 and 18 so I know it’s possible for cats to live here and go outside safely, I think I’m just worried about how much common sense this pair seem to have (or not!) 🙂 xx

  18. Sue says:

    I would keep them as house cats. Of course I live in the States…where Bob Cat fever has killed a number of cats in our region. My last outside kitties ended up as inside kitties in their old age. I prefer inside for their safety and my peace of mind.

    • winwickmum says:

      Yes, our last cats were much more indoor cats in their later years and I think I have just forgotten about how keen they were to be outside when they were younger. I’m sure it will be fine and I’m just worrying before I need to! 🙂 xx

  19. Helen says:

    My boys have just turned 4. They were very timid rescues. I kept them in till they were 1 largely as they only go out if the door is open and weather was on my side. Simba has brought two mice and umpteen butterflies home. But they like outside and I couldn’t deprive them now.

    Simba was a water baby. He flooded the kitchen once. I came home to a lake. After that I had to dismantle the tap ALL the time. Tiny screw on the ‘lever’ and slide it off. He isn’t as obsessed any more and doesn’t like Outside’s water.

    • winwickmum says:

      I am wondering if going outside will reduce the water obsession as there are other things to see, and I’m also thinking about buying a small water fountain for the garden to keep her here if it doesn’t! I’m glad your boys are OK with being outside, thank you for telling me 🙂 xx

  20. EV says:

    Most cats are not happy if they are forced to stay indoors. And even the most cautious ones can get in trouble :-/. We give them somerhing good to eat in the evening so they allways come home around the same hour. Then we close the cat flap :-). In the morning, they can go out again. Good luck with it and I understand completely why you are worried!

    • winwickmum says:

      That’s what we did with our old cats – I’ve done all this before, I don’t know why I’m getting so worked up about this pair but they really do seem dafter than the others! We don’t have a cat flap either (don’t want to risk small furry things being brought into the house) so we always made sure they were in at night. I’m sure I’ll be fine once they’ve been out a couple of times … I hope! 🙂 xx

  21. Selina says:

    lovely post
    i have an out door cat & an indoor cat, indoor cat doesn’t go far from either door, outside cat goes for miles, we mostly have bush here but i still worry, saw 2 wedgetail eagles enjoying the air currents this morning & outdoor cat was there sitting at the door watching them too! she’s smart, she stuck around the house til the eagles were out of sight; my poor chookies didn’t get let out today either cos of the eagles!
    i got my handyman to put weld mesh on my windows so that i could keep both my kitties in at night & have the windows open, we live in an old style miner’s cottage that gets like an oven in summer.
    i think your kitties will be fine, perhaps when you let them out, show them the gardens first & what you do out there (gardening i presume?) they may be better to just be out for an hour or 2 to start with?
    good luck to ‘not so small daughter’ exams
    great post
    thanx for sharing

    • winwickmum says:

      That’s a good idea – I had thought to introduce them slowly rather than showing them the door and leaving them to get on with it. I think it’s just because they seem to be devoid of all sense that I’m worrying! 🙂 xx

  22. Amanda Procter says:

    I have started letting my kittens out, at first supervised in the garden, then during the day unsupervised for short periods, now we’ve unlocked the cat flap. Rex is in and out, but not so bright Ben hasn’t mastered it yet, unless you’re standing there holding it open!

    • winwickmum says:

      Oh dear, that could be a job for life for you! 🙂 At least with the warmer weather coming, it won’t be such a terrible thing to be out in the garden supervising kittens! 🙂 xx

  23. Kath says:

    First off, good luck to your daughter. As for the kitties going outside, I could never envisage having cats that didn’t go out. When we had our last 2, one (the scaredy cat) disappeared for 6 days, during which I spent hours walking the streets calling him, posting notes through letterboxes, putting up posters etc. He arrived home safe and sound, about 6am, squeaking for food. He never went far again! The photo of your jelly cat made me think of the Ravelry pattern – laid back cat amigurumi. I love it, and might have to make one sometime. xx

    • winwickmum says:

      Thank you – we’re half way through the exams now so the end is sort of in sight! I love the pattern … our laid back kitten sneaked outside today when I opened the door and I didn’t notice – until I spotted her scrabbling at the window to get back in because a noise had scared her so perhaps I don’t need to worry too much about them going too far away at first! I’m glad your cat came home xx

  24. Kat says:

    My now-10 month old kitten also seemed far too daft to go outside, and my 2 year old cat is very timid and indoor only – I worried so, so much about having her go into the big bad world alone and not having another cat to show her the ropes. I also looked into lots of trackers but they all seem so huge. For various reasons she didn’t get out until 8 months which is a bit older than a lot of people recommend and which I worried even more about, but she’s been taking it very slowly – a he’s enjoying exploring but is much more cautious than I expected, and even now prefers it when I’m in the garden too. Despite being the silliest cat I’ve ever known inside, she seems to be pretty sensible outside thankfully! Bonus is all the excitement of being outside and all the new smells and everything tires her out so she creates marginally less chaos indoors too

    • winwickmum says:

      That’s really reassuring to read, thank you! Our kittens are desperate to go outside so I don’t think I could (or would want to) try to keep them inside, and I really need to start thinking about letting them go out now as they’ve reached the 6 month mark. It’s good to know that even waiting just a bit longer isn’t a disaster! 🙂 xx

  25. Charlotte says:

    All kittens are dumb, but they’re still generally capable of not getting themselves drowned, and of getting themselves out of whatever scrapes they get into. Our vet says kittens are made of rubber, for that reason. They bend, twist, bounce and float.

    Cats *can* swim, and some actually love doing it. My Dad’s childhood cat once took an unplanned bath in a water-butt after making an ill-judged choice of shortcut down from the roof, but she apparently shot straight out like a very grumpy rocket and took herself straight indoors to dry off, with no lasting effects.

    I say let ‘em out as soon as the vet says it’s okay (usually a week or so after their jabs) and keep an eye on them for the first few times, with some treats to hand to call ‘em back and distract them if they start wandering too far. Take it slowly until they’re confident in your garden and know where home is.

    • winwickmum says:

      I think that the water is the biggest worry for me as one is completely obsessed with it, but you’re right, cats can swim and there will probably be other things outside to take their eye. Thanks for the reassurance, I need to just do it! 🙂 xx

  26. Kate McCurrach says:

    I’ve loved catching up with your blog over breakfast this morning Christine. You’ve made me chuckle and ponder things too. I hope the GCSEs went well. It’s always so much to worry about. The post about leaving home too. These are things that I’m thinking about and you’re so good at expressing the thoughts that we have as parents. My two silly cats are free to roam. I was so worried as we live on a main road but so far they have survived and (touch wood) they are 9 this month. I really didn’t want to deprive them of doing cat things and having cat adventures. I also didn’t want to never have doors and windows open. My two would have escaped – one even climbed up the chimney! I find that sock knitting is such a good remedy for feeling anxious and I’m so glad I learned. Your advice on a small circular has resulted in much smoother and quicker knitting for me. Thank you. X

    • winwickmum says:

      You make such a good point about not having doors and windows open – we’re already finding that hard work and our daft pair are bouncing off the walls now so I couldn’t imagine trying to contain them as house cats! Thank you for your lovely words, and you are right, sock knitting is so good for taking the edge off xx

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