Happiness is like a cat

FFS! (As they say in textland). How is it possible that TWO MORE MONTHS (plus a bit) have passed since my previous post. Perhaps I have finally discovered the Art of Living In The Moment, rather than endlessly reflecting on it. But then again, maybe I’ve just been busy with the busyness of getting through each frenetic day, whilst clinging thoughtlessly to the misguided belief that I am actually getting somewhere.

There can be no doubt that looking after small children is a time-and-mind-consuming activity, which leaves precious little space for the Noble Art of Reflection. I do all my reflecting at night now, usually just before I (don’t) go to sleep – always with the intention that I will commit my profound thoughts to virtual paper the next time I get a free moment. And of course, by the time a rare and precious free moment rolls around, those thoughts have taken off their Cloaks of Profundity and pranced around in their very mundanest of mundane boiler suits, so that the only place they can reasonably be committed to is the bin.

I suppose I could fill this post with a blow by blow account of all the things that have happened in the last couple of months. I could, but that would take a long time (about two months, actually), and probably wouldn’t be all that interesting. So, let me see if I can summarize the main points, just to satisfy my barely repressed obsessive-compulsive need for this blog to be a complete record of my whole life.

Simon, the dogs and Christmas have been and gone. Four cats have been and stayed. Daughter and grandchildren have moved into a rented home-of-their-own. My nights are once again my own. Well – mine and the cats. After two weeks of enforced imprisonment in their new home (so they wouldn’t run off and get lost, thus making all our cat-relocation efforts and expenses pointless) the cats have decided that city-house living is actually rather a fine thing – what with all its carpets, and stairs, and radiators, and litter-trays – and that sleeping on my bed is now their right. Simon kindly installed a cat flap before he left, so that they can pop outside to get their feet wet and muddy before coming back in to use the litter tray and hopping straight back on to the bed, (and so that the local marauding tom cat can pop in at night for a snack, when he thinks no one is looking).

The dogs’ verdict on their city experience was less positive. Stubbs did at least survive the return car journey sans-vom, thanks to the highly effective anti-emetic that we forced down his throat before each trip. He did however continue to drool all the way – a veritable ocean of gloopy wetness cascading over the haunches of his oh-so-forgiving brother, and seeping through the layers of sleeping bag and cardboard to form a hidden pool across the entire floor of the van.

The nightly walks-on-leads around the Christmas-lit streets of Mackworth, complete with strange people, strange dogs and strange traffic, was never anything other than a trial of pully, jumpy, twitchy barkiness. But the daily runs and ball-and-frisbee games on the water-logged playing fields behind the house were certainly fun. For them.

For me and Simon, the pleasure in their sploshy, muddy, other-dog-chasey antics was somewhat less than unmitigated. In fact, on a couple of occasions, it was very little short of a nightmare. But hey ho, really, what did we expect? The transposition of two big, strong, wild-and-free-romping, go-where-you-please, isolated-country-living farm dogs into the traffic-and-other-people-bounded constraints of town life was never going to be easy.

But for now they are back in France, living the Good Life to which they were born, and keeping Simon company, in the complete absence of any other animals, apart from the two remaining barn cats. All the llamas are now living in Brittany at www.ecoferme.com, and Mrs Maran and Stretch (our last two chickens) have moved in with our friends Mike and Suzanne, so that Simon and the dogs will be free to travel another day.

Um. What else? Ah yes… During the course of his Christmas sojourn in Derby, Simon got to spend some quality time with all of his children and grandchildren, and we met his younger daughter’s Intended, who very romantically proposed to her on Christmas Day. He lives in Montreal, Quebec. She lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. They will not see each other again until April. We exchanged notes on the trials and tribulations (and advantages) of long-distance relationships, and concluded that absence can indeed make the heart grow fonder.

Which brings me to where we’re at. I will let Simon give you his own verdict on the time he spent in Derby (although I doubt that he will). He is clearly very happy to be ‘back home’ in France. And I clearly feel very ‘at home’ in Derby. We miss each other. We talk to each other lots, every day. For the time being, we will carry on as we are, spending bits of time together, either here or in France, as and when we can. For once it seems that we haven’t really got a plan. How things will look in a year’s time is anybody’s guess. And I know there is no point in trying to guess.

So, for now, I will spend my busy days overseeing the amazingly wondrous growth and development of my progeny, and feeling privileged that I am able to do so, whilst still bewailing the concomitant insufficiency of sleep and solitude. This is what I want. This is what I have chosen. Of course I have asked myself (and others have asked me) whether this life makes me happy. But the more I ask myself that question, the more I realise what a silly question it is.

To quote William Bennett,

Happiness is like a cat, If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you; it will never come. But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you’ll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap.

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