According to the vaccination certificate we received from the RSPCA when we adopted her, Aggie puss turned 19 at some point during March. She’s understandably slowed up a lot, and these days spends most of her days – and nights – sleeping. She certainly poses no threat to wildlife or birds any more either, content to watch them from the window, in the sunniest spot she can find, while she muses perhaps upon her more agile youth, but she remains as glamorous and glossy as she was when we brought her home.
Aggie was 18 months old when we adopted her, and rejoiced in the name of ‘Biddles’ – a name that didn’t suit her at all, and one we immediately ditched. We knew from previous experience a name would manifest itself eventually as a result of her own personality and behaviour, but it has to be said Aggie (or Agnes) has subsequently become the official, and certainly the most respectable of the many alternate monikers, my partner in particular, uses.
Despite the appealing show she put on for us at the RSPCA, Aggie was a bit snooty at first when we got her home. I suspect she’d been over indulged by her previous owner – a youthful twenty-something apparently, whose job involved an unexpected move to New Zealand for an unspecified time. She’d left the cat in the care of her parents, and I’ve often wondered if they ever confessed to their daughter they’d surrendered Biddles/Aggie to the RSPCA shortly afterwards. Or offered another explanation for the cat’s disappearance.
It was a stay in the RSPCA’s boarding kennel facility* that cured Aggie’s initial aloofness. Despite the excellent care she received there while we were overseas, my theory was always she was so horrified to find herself back at the RSPCA she felt she’d better change her tune when she finally arrived back home. Certainly she looked relieved to see me when I collected her, and ever since has been remarkably friendly, affectionate and placid. For a cat.
It wasn’t all lazing about being waited on hand and foot though – which is arguably what she’d been led to expect and deserve. Aggie had a job to do living with us, and it was keeping the rodents under control on our semi-rural property. It was a job she swiftly took to with typical feline skill and enthusiasm and her tally of mice, rats – and young rabbits – mounted steadily. Possibly because there were enough rodents to keep her occupied Aggie never – thankfully – seriously turned her deadly hunting instincts towards birds.
These days any of those residual hunting instincts are limited to seeking out the sunniest spot in the house, so she can enjoy the warmth in her ageing bones. Or else snuggling up as close as she possibly can to the heater. How many more summers and winters we’ll have Aggie is, of course, unknown, but hopefully come next March we’ll be celebrating her 20th!
* Tasmania’s RSPCA no longer offers boarding facilities for cats and dogs.
Probably because of the cooler-than-usual January and February, our tomatoes were very slow to ripen this year. That all changed as soon as March arrived – and with it, finally, some hot weather. Almost overnight we went from moaning at the pathetically few specimens ready to pick, to having so many it’s become almost impossible to keep up. After the morning’s pick they line the kitchen bench in an assortment of containers appropriate to their size. Tomatoes are now a mandatory component of almost every meal; we’ve given masses away, and I’ve cooked up several large batches with onions, garlic, capsicums, and chillies or herbs – all of which we also grow. But there’s only so much room in the freezer, and ours has almost reached capacity, so what to do given there’s an abundance still to ripen?
A chance remark by a friend the other day reminded me I have a dehydrator. I was persuaded to buy this gadget several years ago, but it hasn’t been used as much as I anticipated it would be. Pre the dehydrator I did once have a go at drying tomatoes in the oven, but preparing them was fiddly and time-consuming, (they were mostly cherry tomatoes) and the process seemed to take forever. I’ve never been tempted to try it again.
But with so many large and emanently suitable candidates to use this year it was time to retrieve the dehydrator from the top shelf in the pantry, dust it off and have another crack. And since I sourced instructions on the internet, it’s barely been given a rest. So for all those warming winter casseroles and pasta dishes I can now alternately use ‘sun-dried’ tomatoes or my trusty frozen tomato mixes.
In hindsight it was perhaps a bit crazy to plant so many tomatoes, but following our trip to Europe last year, and a French tour that included visiting the Chateau de la Bourdaisière, famous for growing over 600 heirloom tomato varieties, we couldn’t resist buying a couple of packets of different seeds that were available for purchase. Then we bought packets of two other varieties in Venice – after seeing and sampling some of the amazing and diverse tomatoes on display in the street markets. So these, together with a couple of the tried and true varieties we’ve grown previously, has unsurprisingly resulted in an abundance. Our excuse is that we couldn’t be sure the French and Italian varieties would grow well in Tasmania. I think we can now safely say that they do. And I can safely say that tinned tomatoes will definitely be off the shopping list for the rest of the year!
From the outset I was determined not to put pressure on myself in respect of deadlines. This was one writing project where I wasn’t obliged to write to a set deadline, so while I certainly set some goals, I wasn’t going to beat myself over the head if some flexibility was necessary about meeting them. Life after all does have a habit of getting in the way, and it certainly did towards the end of 2015 as preparation for the second Tamar Valley Writers Festival accelerated before this biennial event took place in March 2016. As one of those on the organising committee there was a definite need to juggle priorities.
And all that hard work was worth it, since the Festival provided an unexpected, and unlooked for opportunity to discuss my book project with someone in the publishing industry. As a result of piquing her interest, (which I believe was more than just being polite) there was a genuine offer to contact her with the detailed proposal and synopsis – when I’ve reached that point.
Well, OK, so I haven’t yet arrived at that point, but I’m certainly a lot closer to it than I was, with just two more interviews to go before the hard graft really starts in earnest.
Then it will be a question of finding out if my vision for the book I can see so clearly in my head, will translate into real and readable words, on real and printed pages.