Those outside cats are so sweet.  I’ve become terribly fond of them.  Mother and father come along for a meal if they’re hungry, but they nay not turn up for several weeks.  Mother, whose latest name is Mehitabel, was here the last frosty morning – she looks healthy and well fed and I wouldn’t be surprised if she is fed by other people too – and father, RasPutin, comes a bit more often.  He’s a big bruiser of a tabby tom, and in the past year he’s lost a serious fight because he now has a crooked ear and he has less swagger and more anxiety.  I still don’t know if he’s a pet or a stray or actually feral but he’s friendly and I stroke him and he has never shown his claws.  None of them has, in fact, they are quite unaggressive and peaceable.  Mehitabel cuffs her children but that’s all.

They all have wonderfully thick, fluffy coats and look healthy and I’m actually rather proud of that.  If they were all unneutered it would be a different story, I know.  The four kittens, nearly two years old now in fact, are still very affectionate together and constantly reinforce the bond between them, rubbing together as they walk.  Zain the tabby is still the friendliest apart from Mehitabel, Freddie likes to be stroked, Betty is wary but can be stroked if she’s touching one of her brothers.  Barney, I’ve never touched.  I could, when he’s eating, but I don’t want to worry him.  If ever he comes to me, I’ll stroke him without looking at him.

Restrictions regarding poultry are still in place because of avian flu.  My lot are perfectly content in the greenhouse with the tunnel through to their run, but they don’t lay eggs.  I can’t remember the last egg we had but it was at least three weeks ago.  Wretched little freeloaders.  They get layers’ pellets, mixed corn, various greens and table scraps but they refuse to lay.  In a week or four, we’ll have more eggs than we know what to do with.

My dear friend Mary broke a bone in her pelvis, skiing.  She’s a proficient skier but was unlucky, slipped on hard ice and fell awkwardly.  She’s going to get the result of a scan tomorrow and will then know how long it’ll take before she heals and what she can and mustn’t do.  I hope to go and see her before the weekend.  She and her husband have their house on the market at present – they’re moving west and north, nearer their children – I’ll miss her terribly when she goes.

A friend died today.  Not a close friend, though she only lives three or four miles away, but it comes close after another friend’s death, both from cancer, both a few years older than me, in the same social circle. I feel strangely diminished by it, more upset than I’d think from the relatively slight acquaintanceship with either.  I don’t know why I’m feeling a little vulnerable at present, but I tell myself it’s quite all right to be fragile and self-protective sometimes and not surprising.

On a happier note, my good friend Graham, who did so much to help me with turning out, the summer after Russell died, is going to be over here (he lives in Auckland, New Zealand) in May.  It’ll be great to see him again, show him all the good changes round here and introduce him to Lovely Tim.

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