Friday, 25 September 2015


                The past fortnight has been a nightmare, and all because of fleas. We had to cancel our week away- to celebrate our wedding anniversary. In fact, we barely got out of the flat. Every day, we were decluttering, vacuum-cleaning, spraying with Indorex, etc.
            From my wardrobe, in which I was keeping, not clothes but books, I threw out ten bin liners’ worth. I virtually filled the estate’s recycling bin single-handed.
            Worse than that, though, we were scared to go near our poor cat. We couldn’t stroke her. My wife would shriek whenever the cat drew near.
            It got to the point where we thought we couldn’t keep the cat. She originally came from Battersea Dogs And Cats Home seven years ago. I couldn’t bring myself to take her back there, it would break her heart. I went to see the vet, to ask whether she would be prepared to put down an otherwise-healthy cat. She said it was up to us, but that she could help us rehome our cat. I felt disgusted with myself when I left. I burst into tears out in the high street.
            People who don’t love animals might not understand this, but our cat is like a member of the family. In fact, it was my wife’s idea to get her, after our first cat passed away. Having a cat there made her feel less depressed and anxious. So it tears me apart to see her acting so coldly towards the cat.
            We couldn’t tell anybody. Even though our flat was spotless (thanks predominantly to my wife), we felt ashamed. We always gave our cat Frontline flea treatment, which up until this month worked perfectly. But then, without warning, Frontline apparently stopped working, at least in cities. The fleas there had become resistant to it. I’m hoping that the new stuff, Advocate, will do the job. We will find out in another fortnight.
            I’ve barely written anything. I haven’t even done Writing Practice. For the whole week I was off, all I did was wake up, vacuum-clean, declutter, go back to bed again, all the while trying to calm my wife’s nerves (and she would tell you that I didn’t do a very good job of that). I was glad to go back to work, although even there I wondered whether they were living on me.
            My writers’ group met up in a pub one night, prior to the start of the new term. It was good to see them again, generally chit-chatting, and not always about writing, either.
            There were a few incidental happy times. Walking up to the cafĂ© for a break. It felt good to have more space. And I’ve got the vacuum-cleaning (which you have to carry out every day for a month) down to a fine art. If you put some music on, it can even become enjoyable. We got a new machine, a Dyson, which I can thoroughly recommend.

            But on the whole, though, the nightmare continues.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Tania Writes: Short Stories Wanted for Refugees Welcome Antholog...

Tania Writes: Short Stories Wanted for Refugees Welcome Antholog...: Greg McQueen, the wonderful person behind the 100 Stories for Haiti fundraising anthology in 2010, has decided once again that he can't ...

Paul Chown: Tania Writes: Short Stories Wanted for Refugees We...

Paul Chown: Tania Writes: Short Stories Wanted for Refugees We...: Tania Writes: Short Stories Wanted for Refugees Welcome Antholog... : Greg McQueen, the wonderful person behind the 100 Stories for Haiti fu...

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Friday, 11 September 2015

Mere Flea-Bitings

                Our flat is infested with fleas. My wife noticed that our cat kept scratching herself. We’ve always used Frontline flea treatment on her, although she’s a wild cat and doesn’t stay still long enough for you to get much on her, but we always managed to get some on. In any case, she’s an indoor cat. We cannot get her to go outside. How could she possibly get fleas?
                But the vet put a comb through her fur and found a living one. It makes me sick to think of it The vet put on some new, high powered stuff on her called Advocate, which is prescription only. Frontline, apparently, was good in its day, but lately, in cities anyway, fleas have become resistant to it. Our cat behaved well for the vet, as she never does for us.
                We also had to fumigate the flat with an ultra strong spray; and for a whole month, I have to vacuum-clean the flat every day. Vacuum-cleaning is my responsibility- my wife does practically everything else- and I’ve been remiss lately. This is my punishment.
                We were hoping, next week, to go to the coast for a few days, but we have had to postpone that. We don’t feel we can ask our regular cat-sitter to look after our little brute.
                I feel depressed every day when I sit in the front room. I feel- or at least I imagine that I feel- fleas all over me. The vet told us that you get more of them living on your carpet and soft furnishings than you do on your pet. In fact, we really ought to be grateful to our cat for letting us know of their existence.
                When we took the cat for her booster, earlier this year, the vet put a comb through her fur and didn’t find anything, so this is a recent problem. We’ve never had the problem before, but even the cleanest houses aren’t safe. We’ve thrown out sheets and bedding, as though we had the Black Plague. We don’t, I’m sure, have mice, so I don’t know how the fleas got in in the first place. Except that there are mice at work. I’ve been careful to check my bag each day before setting off home, but perhaps one of them left a calling card.
                I haven’t written anything lately, except for MorningPages and Writing Practice. I’ve been going to bed late, getting up late, and then, of course, I have to vacuum the house before I leave for work. I don’t feel unhappy about that, though. Writing is writing, and I’m not obsessed (at the moment) with finding THE RIGHT IDEA. Paradoxically, ideas are coming to me. It won’t be long now.


Friday, 4 September 2015


            Last Friday I had a shock. It was 8AM. I was sitting at the table with the laptop on and my Writing Practice notebook open ready to type up the latest Scribe post when my wife walked in. I have never told her about Scribe. I don’t think she’d understand what it’s for.
            She told me, when we got married, that she didn’t want me to write about her or her family, or use them as models for my fictional characters. Which I understand. But here was a post which mentioned her in passing, and the row which we’d recently had.
            I didn’t hear the bedroom door opening, or her footsteps down the hallway. I became aware of her entering the living room without looking around. I must have looked pale. I certainly felt sick and queasy. She was bearing down on me. In a few seconds, she could have looked over my shoulder and read what I was typing.
            In a blind panic, I pressed EXIT. The computer asked me if I wanted to save my changes. My heart was hammering inside my chest as I pressed ENTER. The laptop seemed to take an age, but finally, mercifully, the Word document vanished.
            She never said anything about it to me. Not that day, not the next, not this whole week. We’ve been talking and laughing. We even had a wonderful day out together, at the races, and actually, apart from this incident, it’s been a good and happy week. It’s as if she suspected nothing.
            I would pray to God that she hasn’t, except that I don’t believe He interferes with people’s minds (see the film Bruce Almighty). I felt, and still feel disgusted and angry with myself, as though I’d been texting another woman. I know that it would hurt my wife as much.
            Before I met my wife, I didn’t care who ended up in my writing, or how it portrayed them. I still think that, when you’re creating a fictional character, you have to start with a real person. After we got married, I felt blocked and censored because I was trying not to hurt her. I also made mistakes, which led to bad arguments.

            At the end of the day, I’m a writer, I need to write. I need to be able to say what I think, and create fiction as best I can. But, my God, I wish I didn’t have this dilemma every time I pick up a pen.