Monthly Archives: August 2014

Cats Shouldn’t Eat… first published earlier this year

I am an animal lover.  I admit it unashamedly.  Anyone and everyone who knows me, even slightly, will know that. My first, as yet, unpublished, book is about my cats.  So, it will come as no surprise to you to learn that I am signed up to a number of blogs, etc, about animals.

I received an e-mail today that told me about a number of common foodstuffs that cause cats a problem if they eat it.  That got me thinking.

Four cats, all with different tastes in food.  All with different eating habits.

Rhea, for example, loves a spider plant.   She’ll have a little chew whenever she can.  I tell you, I can put a Sergeant Major to shame now, for my shouting abilities.  I’m sure that isn’t good for her,
“You ‘orrible little cat, get off that plant!”

Artemis: Pretty much anything that is edible goes where she is concerned.

Oceana: she is convinced that she’s human, except of course, when she is bringing mice home.  And is very keen to take food off of my plate (or anyone else’s, come to that).  Even the bones of sprats, which was one occurrence.

Telesto: I think she comfort eats.  For a cat that doesn’t much like humans, she certainly finds enough humans to feed her.  Anyone who puts food out for stray cats or the foxes, Telesto finds her way to their homes and then comes back her for seconds.  I seriously thought she was suffering from bulimia when she vomited over my freshly changed bed linen on Monday morning.

And Dreamies.  They will do almost anything for Dreamies.  Or the supermarket home brand equivalent.  Rattle a bag of Dreamies and I can do anything.  Actually, I’m a bit surprised that they still fall for that one, but they do.  Polythene bags.  What is the fascination for polythene bags?  Rhea loves a little chew of them; Artemis tries to sit in them.  (I know, I know…)

Cats are curious.  Whatever it is, they want to know all about it.  This morning, Artemis was standing like a meerkat, sniffing the bottom of my coat.  (That will be the dogs I stroke on the way to work.)  They even go through the waste bins, just in case I have inadvertently thrown away some food that might be essential for their survival.  I can’t have a glass of wine without them checking that it’s not something they might like.

Telesto knows that she doesn’t like peanut butter, but it doesn’t stop her from holding a full inspection of my breakfast every morning.  Just in case something might have changed.
So I’m not surprised that cats often eat things that they shouldn’t. I’m only surprised that they stop where they do.

©Susan Shirley 2014


The Italian Bookshop – first published 11/2/14

I posted a few months ago that I had started to learn to speak Italian. I purchased my textbooks online, but through the Italian Bookshop in Soho. Of course, now I’m on the mailing list, and recently received an invitation to a function that was taking place there yesterday. I didn’t understand most of the e-mail – way too advanced for me, but my Italian friend gave me the gist of it, and agreed to come along with me.

The basis of it was that there were two female journalists, one of whom has written a book called Do You Know Who I Am. More correctly, that’s how it translates into English. The author, who writes for Marie Claire, Vogue and others, was talking about her experiences interviewing various Hollywood stars, and other aspects of her working life. My friend told me that I’d really have enjoyed it had I been able to understand it.

The event ended with wine and nibbles. The manageress of the bookshop started to talk to me in Italian and my friend explained that I am a studentessa.

The manageress said, “Maybe it was too advanced for you, but brava!”

She was right, it was too advanced for me, I understood a few words, but that was it. Good job I had V to translate.


©Susan Shirley 2014

Travelling to Work

It takes me just 14 minutes to walk from my house to the station. On Friday, it was the longest 14 minutes of my life. I was not halfway down the road when the Heavens opened. By the time I reached the station I was absolutely drenched.

Didn’t I know it was going to rain? Yes, of course, I had seen the weather forecast. But I wasn’t expecting it to rain quite so early in the day, nor quite so heavily. Showers, they had said on the BBC, my main source of reference for these things.

If your definition of a shower is hard, pelting rain that comes down like stair rods, almost like hail but not quite, that only lasts about 8 minutes, then yes, I suppose it was a shower. That is not, by the way, my definition of a shower.

Anyway, I survived that particular ordeal and arrived at the station somewhat bedraggled, but ready for the next step in my journey. As it’s the school holidays, the trains are not too crowded at the moment. My preference is usually to sit at the end of the carriage, out of everyone’s way, except for those who think it is a jolly jape to steam through the carriages. However, on this occasion, the window was wide open. If I sat by the window when it was raining, I knew from experience that there was a strong chance that I would get wet as the rain was blown into the carriage.

Why didn’t I close the window, I hear you ask? Well, that is often easier said than done. Some of those windows are really stiff and I find them impossible to close. And anyway, you will recall that I was still soaking wet and wanted the air to circulate to help dry me off. I had no desire to spend the entire day with a wet bottom. I sat a little further down the carriage.

There was a chap a bit further along, talking to himself very loudly. Actually, on further inspection, he was talking on his ‘phone with the hands free thingy. Years ago, we London travellers would have avoided anyone who spoke to themselves like the plague. It was always a sign that they were mentally ill. (Ok, back in the day we’d have called them “nutters” but I am far too politically correct for that now.)

I’ve encountered more than my fair share of them over the years. I remember vividly travelling home on a number 38 bus one day. My hair was in a chestnut coloured bob at the time (it’s relevant, believe me. What happened wouldn’t have happened if I’d looked the way I do now). I was reading a newspaper, and I do tend to get quite engrossed when I’m reading, to the extent that I’ve even missed my stop before now. Anyway, eventually I became aware of a woman sitting behind me who said something like,

“You Asians, you come over here and take our jobs…..” Moan, moan, moan.

To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention, just vaguely wondered who was the target of her venom. I’m a bit on the pale side, and if I get mistaken for any nationality, it’s usually Dutch. Must be something to do with the clogs I suppose. Anyway, the droning on behind me continued and I heard something about “reading a newspaper.” That stopped me in my tracks. I turned around. The moaning woman gaped in horror as she stared into my baby blues.

“Oh, you’re not……. are you?”

“No, I’m not, although I’m not sure exactly what difference that makes?”

The woman didn’t answer me but she did get off at the next stop.

Back to Friday’s journey. I changed trains at the mainline interchange. The trains are air conditioned and, if the connection is there when the first train pulls in, it’s quicker. The carriage was almost empty, which was good for me, because I wanted to write this blog post. Except for the fact that other occupant in the carriage was chewing gum. You know the sort, don’t you? Open mouthed and very, very noisy. Really? I am not a dentist and do not wish to inspect your teeth. My mother would have slapped me if I’d done that as an adult, never mind as a child. I do realise that you can’t eat chewing gum in an elegant or stylish fashion, I really do, but honestly, can’t people hear themselves? It’s disgusting.

Which leads me on to my next rant du jour, but you’ll have to wait for my next post for that one.


©Susan Shirley 2014

My First Job Interview

I was writing an article yesterday, on an HR related topic, which put me in mind of my first job. Or, more correctly, my first job interview, if you can call it that.

As a teenager, I don’t think I planned for anything and didn’t have the faintest clue what I wanted to do. I stopped full-time education when I was 16, so in the months before I finished school, there was a quick interview with the careers advisor (I say “quick” because I doubt that I contributed anything of value to the conversation) and I went back to class. That meeting went something like this:

“What would you like to do when you leave school?”

“No idea.”

“What are your interests?”

“Um, well, I like reading. And animals.” There were other things, but playing poker and going out drinking are things that you just can’t tell your careers advisor.

“Animals? Would you like to train as a veterinary nurse?”


“Why not?”

“I’ll get upset if they have to put animals to sleep.

“What about an office job?”

“Ok then.”

The next thing I knew was that I had a job interview, for an office job.

I don’t now remember exactly when the interview took place, but I know that my first day at work was 6 August, and I’d only had a couple of weeks off since leaving school, so my guess is that it was the end of June/beginning of July. I don’t remember completing an application form either, although I suppose I must have, as I was being employed by a government department.   Anyway, I digress.

I went to an all girls’ school, and we played hockey every week. When I say, we played hockey, that was what it said on the curriculum. Can you imagine all those female teenage hormones together in one place, with no outlet apart from brandishing a stick, not necessarily towards a ball? What an aggressive bunch of heathens they were. I remember clearly one of the bones in my foot being knocked out of position by the action of a wayward hockey stick because I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was nothing jolly about it at all, from my recollection, and whoever coined that particular expression has clearly never played the game with other teenage girls.

On the day of my interview, we’d played hockey. We didn’t shower after hockey, I don’t really remember why. So, I turned up for my interview wearing my uniform school dress, which was fine blue, grey, white and black stripes, and actually nicer than it sounds, my royal blue school blazer, and my extremely attractive royal blue hockey socks, which insisted on slipping down to my ankles, revealing my matching bruises and bits of mud. I looked as though I’d been in a fight, not a hockey match. You’ll be pleased to learn, though, that I had managed to take my hockey boots off and put shoes back on though, so you can see, I was all about making a good impression.

I have absolutely no idea what was going through my mind, I’m sure I must have been a bit nervous. Anyway, I made my way to the government building, announced myself in the front counter, full of social security claimants. I must have looked very out of place. Someone came to collect me, and I was taken up to the office of Mr M.

Very welcoming he was, too. He shook my hand and invited me to sit down. Now, I must have been very naive, because there were absolutely no papers on his desk (this was before we used computers) but I assumed that, as he was the big boss, he was the busiest man in the world. My Mum and Dad have a lot to answer for, bringing me up with an inherent sense of faith in authority, and believing every word that people tell me.

As interviews go, it was pretty easy. I don’t remember what questions he asked me, but I do remember that I made him laugh a lot, and I did a lot of laughing. It was all very jovial. I must have been smoking hot.

I’ve ever had another interview like that. I even remember being given a cup of tea, and that’s never happened since either! I seem to recall being asked very difficult questions in later interviews, so that first interview really set me up for the wrong view of the world of work.

There was a point in time when I was having so many job interviews that I became very proficient at them and I actually started interviewing the interviewers. (That’s a really bad tactic, by the way. A few pertinent questions at the end of the interview are fine, but not throughout the interview. Nowadays, with my interviewing experience, I wouldn’t let anyone do that to me, and would be decidedly miffed if anyone tried, but I seemed to get away with it.)

It’s all much more formal nowadays, at least with big employers. You can’t ask this or that because of various bits of European legislation and fashions in interviewing have changed, just as with clothing. We HR types particularly like behavioural and competency based questions, such as “Can you give me an example of when you did….?”

Of course there are the questions that we were discussing in the office the other day, such as “What kind of dog are you?” (The kind that likes a comfortable bed and lots of food) or “How do you weigh an elephant?” but these are used more by non-HR professionals. Just for the record, the answer isn’t the important bit in these questions; it’s the thought process and your ability to think on your feet that matters.

Back to my job interview, I was offered the job, and worked there for several years, so I clearly won Mr M over with my charm and wit. Let’s hope I can do it again when I start job-hunting again.



©Susan Shirley 2014