May 31, 2013




I don’t know if I have good news or not.

I went to bed last . . . er . . . this morning at a little short of 7 a.m.  Sic.  But I wanted to get Chaos frelling stabilised and I knew I wasn’t going to sleep anyway if he wasn’t so I might as well go on playing stupid games on my iPad*.

But he actually had a long drink on his own four feet out of the water bowl at about 6:30 and I thought GREAT I am going to BED.**

About four and a half hours later ( . . . moan) when I came downstairs again he was glassy-eyed and limp, flopped in the dog bed like a piece of trash someone had thrown down.  I hastily started the squirting protocol again thinking that the round the clock thing is a major ratbag for anyone who’s trying to do it alone . . . not that this is news, and I can hear hollow laughter from some of my readers, but stuff that is in your face right now is . . . well, it’s in your tired, heavy-lidded face right now.

Pretty much the first thing he did after the glint returned to his eye and he was inhabiting his body again was . . . go outdoors and geyser.


But he was still clearly better in himself than he’d been yesterday*** so I dithered for a while and eventually rang the vet.  When she finally rang me back† she gave no impression of a woman in a hurry stooping to do an importunate client a favour, but talked me through exactly what was going on and agreeing that I could keep him home one more day . . . but if he is not SIGNIFICANTLY better tomorrow, he’s still going in to critter hospital.

He didn’t eat lunch of course but neither did Darkness (sigh).  And he’ll still swallow when I squirt††, spoon or smear things into/on him†††.  I’ve also settled on a couple of homeopathic remedies—one the basic for fluid loss, one pertaining to the specifics of the situation which I will spare you—which I’m pretty sure are helping.‡  But it’s more stuff to pry his mouth open for.  Poor Chaos.

He was still geysering on his two-minute afternoon hurtle.  The vet said that given how bad an episode he’s had it’s going to take at least several days to settle down but by the end of today there should be some thickening going on.  Well.  Um.  Maybe.  Minimally.

And then all suddenly . . . he wanted dinner.  He came out of the dog bed and begged for scraps with Darkness.  And when I gave him his stock-and-meat-mush he ate it right up. . . .

Darkness didn’t eat his dinner.  MOAN.  And while I’d be on tenterhooks anyway because this is the first (semi) solid food Chaos has had in three days . . . Peter and I have another overnight [human] guest and my mind was not totally on critters, and while I wasn’t looking he nailed most of Darkness’.  I had NO intention of letting him eat that much, nor any kibble at all, till tomorrow earliest.  MOOOOOOAAAAAAN.

So I’m waiting anxiously to see what happens.  He has spent way too much of this evening awake—dogs are supposed to SLEEP after meals—and I fear what this may mean.  We did go out for a geyser about an hour ago, but it was quite a little geyser, several hours after dinner, so that illegal food is not all rushing through him.  I’m hoping that at least some of it is getting, you know, digested.

He’s crashed out now.  Looking perfectly content, although the sticky-outness of those ribs belies this rather.  And what the freaking hell is Darkness up to?  He’s still losing weight, he’s just less acute, at the minute, than Chaos.  Whimper.  I have one meal left today with which hellhounds and I can torture each other.  At least I seem to have an on-the-job vet.

* * *

* I’ve tried a couple more unsatisfactory word games.  There’s one that tells you what words you’re supposed to find on the grid and . . . why?  Ugh.  I know I’m playing games because I have no brain and I need distraction, but that’s a step too far into zombie territory for me.  And then there’s one that keeps a little list of the words you do find and when your time runs out presents you with a much longer list of the words you could have found.  First couple of games I thought, oh well, I’m generally no frelling good at games anyway, no big.  And then I happened to let my eye linger on one of the lists and discovered (a) you CAN’T find all the words in the list because some of them require you to skip over grid squares in a way that playing the game specifically disallows and (b) they have a somewhat CREATIVE view of the English language.^

Has anyone played About Love, Hate and the other ones?  I’m attracted to the notion of an ‘undo’ button.

^ Although even the satisfactory ones can be a trifle whimsical.  Word Abacus mostly accepts proper names but it doesn’t take Gail.  Or Doug.  And it takes some pretty borderline non-English words like père.  But it doesn’t take séance.  What?  I was really proud of séance.

** Outrage among hellhounds that they weren’t allowed to come upstairs and sleep in my office while I take my bath.  Which they usually do, except when I’m worried about what one of them may do all over the carpet when I’m running water and don’t hear him.

*** I’d run out of honey at the cottage—sacrilege, I know, but these things happen—so I’d lifted his lip and sprinkled a little of the Organic Raw Sugar^ that I use in my tea on his gum.  That got him going, that I was insulting him with SUGAR.

^ It’s still bad for you, it’s just bad for you in a straightforward way with no dependent clauses.

† By which time I was out with Darkness, who took standing around twenty minutes on a street corner as all part of the current weirdness of being hurtled by himself.

†† Any of you in a position to have to squirt a critter:  you know that you don’t literally squirt it down their throats, right?  Because you run the risk of getting it in their lungs which can cause an extremely nasty infection.  Cats’ faces are so much flatter, and they’re so much likelier to bite, I’ve found squirting them rather challenging upon occasion.  But a dog is easy, so long as he swallows, you’ve got that little pouch of skin at the corners of dogs’ (comparatively) long narrow mouths.  This would still be true of the hellterror.  Dunno about the really crushed-in face dogs, like Pekes and pugs.

††† Darkness will clean up errors in honey aim

‡ But an acute like this, the ‘picture’ can change really fast—faster than I can keep up with.

The nightmare continues


Chaos was still geysering this morning.  I had spent some time last night researching other local vet practises.  I know a little about a couple of them already, and decided to try the one that runs its own 24-hour emergency service rather than banding together with other practises—which sounds to me more liable to error.  They said they couldn’t see me today because they were still backed up after the holiday but listened when I said that Chaos was urgent and . . . found an appointment slot for us.

I have some hope of my new vet.  She’s young—and has a fabulous regional-UK accent—and in that absent-minded way of true animal people was down on the floor with the hellhounds (I’d brought both, of course:  Chaos is a clinger, and can use all the emotional support he can get) all the time we were talking, not just while she was trying to examine her patient.  She told me a lot of stuff I already knew—that there is no guarantee that we aren’t looking at three different bad situations—or two anyway, the litter-brother hellhounds and the hellterror.  And that the situation or situations are unlikely to be clear and distinct or to have clear, distinct answers.  Hey, I have ME.  I know all about blurry.   But the thing is she is engaging.  She is not blowing me off.

She spent over an hour with us—keeping her next patient waiting—and had a lot to say, most of which I’ve forgotten because I’m very tired and have extreme crumbliness of brain.  But she has a Beginning Plan and she sent me home with a sack of stuff with Very Clear Instructions printed on each item, including the nine little plastic crap-sample containers, since part of the beginning plan is doing the faecal tests all over again rather more comprehensively, and with three samples from each hellcritter over three days.  This is, in fact, what I had been expecting the idiot from my ex-practise to recommend.

Chaos is in a bad way.  If he’s not significantly better tomorrow she wants him in hospital.  I have the standard Thickening Agent paste for his bowels, and electrolytes for his water.  He’s getting both of these because I’m squirting them into him.  I’m not surprised I have to force the paste on him—horse wormers usually claim to be ‘palatable’ too but I’ve never seen a horse like the stuff—but he’s not interested in his water dish either.  And while he’s clearly wretched, I also suspect he’s feebly liking the attention of having me squirt him.  I’m smearing a little honey on his gums for the calories too—also, while this is a standard emergency treatment, even before CHALICE I’ve always believed in honey magic.  I’d much rather have him at home, and he’ll be a lot less stressed if he can stay home too.  Never mind that I’m forgetting how to do my work—remind me how I earn my living?*—I’d be no more able to concentrate if he were in a clinic kennel being ministered by veterinary nurses.

Thanks for all the support from blog readers—both on the forum and by email.  Because I’ve been living with this for a long time, I know most of the stuff that everybody knows,** but particularly in my current state of unbrain, I don’t at all mind being reminded.***  And . . . I think I’m falling down the Ravine of Inarticulacy.  I hope I’ll have a better update tomorrow. . . .

* * *

* And vets are EXPENSIVE.

** Remember—the hellhounds are cereal-allergic, so things like rice and ginger biscuits are not options.  And I think cheese, which is popular with hellhounds, gave Darkness one of his terrifying geysering fits, and at the moment it’s not something I want to experiment with.  It has seemed to me yogurt has made them worse too, which—since you DON’T KNOW what aspect of something is causing the problem—makes me twitchy about probiotics, although the James Wellbeloved cereal-free kibble I use has prebiotics in it which some experts, or ‘experts’, on and off the internet, say are easier on touchy digestions.  And yes—the big thing is that I want to FIX THIS.  I don’t want to go on struggling more, or sometimes disastrously less, successfully, with the symptoms day to day.  To day to day to day to .  . .

Shared bacteria:  yeah.  I’ve worried about this for years too, since with my several decades of IBS I’ve been interested in guts for a long time, and totally believe in the mood and behavioural aspect and the ‘second brain’ theory.  But in current circumstances it just makes me feel like Typhoid Mary, since I’m no more of a mess than usual.  Less, considering that I’m totally stressed out by hellcritters.

. . . Snork.  I like liver.  It is, indeed, one of the Keeping McKinley on the Road therapies, so it’s a good thing I like it.  I know I need meat, and specifically red meat, but I literally notice Lack of Liver if more than about a week goes by I don’t have an injection.  And hellhounds adore it.  They’ll eat it if they’ll eat anything.  But sometimes they won’t eat it either.  And they also get brewer’s yeast.  It’s good for what ails you—including repelling fleas.

Southdowner says there aren’t vet teaching hospitals over here the way there are in America—that’s what I thought of too, because in my early horse days that was what you did with intractable critter problems.  There is nothing better than a good one.  There are some fancy trusts and things that do a similar job over here—one that Southdowner can recommend, and the specialist within my driving distance according to my new vet is indeed very good and they send their complex cases on there.  So that’s still on the radar, but I talked to the specialist before I rang the new local people and felt that going from Mr Idiot to the specialist was a bit like going from a tricycle to a Ferrari—I’d like to try a bicycle and maybe a VW Golf in between.

*** But I’d be grateful if you didn’t remind me of the whole ‘environmental illness’ thing any more.  I went through a huge amount of this when I was first trying to find management strategies for the ME.  There’s a monster environmental-illness implication with all us mysterious-auto-immune-illness people . . . and the bottom line is that there’s mostly freak-all you can do about it, except not buy a house next a mobile phone mast.  Turn my wireless off?  Sure.  I could do that.  What for?  All three of my houses are bathed in other people’s wireless.  Turn your laptop on and ask for available servers and a list of at least half a dozen unscrolls.  I don’t deny this is an issue, but I prefer to expend my limited energy on something I have some hope of making headway on.





I put my cousin and her husband on the train today.  I’m not at my best, I’m too frantic about my hellcritters.  This would be a funny story under other circumstances:  The courtyard at the mews slopes slightly, down toward Peter’s end.   When the neighbours have parked too near our end I have trouble turning around to get out.*  When this happens and I’m clawing for every half inch manoeuvring room, I let Wolfgang roll back toward Peter’s front door step and bump into it.**  There is a thud involved.  I didn’t think about this till I saw my cousin’s face and decided it was worth saying something.  I ended with ‘I don’t usually run into things’.  Thirty seconds later I rolled (gently) into the wall at the parking garage.  Thud.

I am not at my best.

I had decided that I wasn’t going to phone the vets today.  It’s the first working day after a holiday weekend, everyone is going to be stacked up with three days of near-emergencies.  I did eye the turn-off to the clinic on my way home from the train station.

But then Pooka produced a phone message from the vet.  I rang back so fast I bruised my fingers punching buttons.

The last results are in:  negative for campylobacter.

So much for the easy answer.  Well, I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy answer—as I’ve said here more than once as a way of reminding myself, we went through this five or six years ago with the hellhounds.  I’m still profoundly depressed, but I’m not surprised.

But, you know, now what?  Where do you frelling start?  It’s a big world out there, full of stomach-upsetting, bowel-loosening nasties.

But the conversation with the vet quickly turned surreal.  I’m not going to remember it accurately, especially because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I don’t think well on my feet even when I’m not frantic and have had enough sleep at least once or twice in the last several months, and this was not an occasion that was going to bring out my hitherto unsuspected cool rapier logic.  I nonetheless remember the gist well enough.

So, he said, that’s that.

Huh?  What?  You’ve done one lot of basic lab tests and that’s the end?

I think it must be stress, he said.

WHAT?  I said.  When it was just the two litter-brother lurchers I was willing to go along with the idea that it was something about them.  I now have a non-related puppy of a different breed with pretty nearly exactly the same symptoms?  IT’S SOMETHING IN THE ENVIRONMENT.**

I was looking through the notes, he said.  You eased it with homeopathy the last time.  I think you should do that again.

I DON’T FRELLING WANT TO FRELLING EASE IT.  I WANT TO FIND OUT WHAT IT IS SO WE HAVE A SHOT AT FIXING IT.  —I never thought I would want to bite someone’s head off for suggesting using homeopathy.  But this sounds like ‘go away and leave us alone’ to me.

I think the puppy has got old enough that there’s some kind of negative-feedback stress loop with her and the big dogs, he said.

I declined to say that she’s in full streaming, speaking of streaming, season and that right at the minute there is a negative-feedback stress loop BECAUSE I DON’T THINK THAT’S WHAT’S CAUSED THE LAST SEVERAL MONTHS OF DIGESTIVE WEIRDNESS WITH THE HELLHOUNDS FOLLOWED MORE RECENTLY WITH PAV GOING THE EXACT SAME LOWER INTESTINAL ROUTE.

Words pretty much failed me.  Which is just as well.  As far as he’s concerned the case is closed.  Basic faecal lab tests come up negative and so it . . . isn’t anything.  I guess I’m just neurotic.  I guess I’m so neurotic I’m causing my hellhounds to stop eating† and all three of my hellcritters to have diarrhoea.  That’s pretty frelling neurotic.

He has agreed to recommend me to a small animal internal medicine specialist who fortunately happens to be within my driving range.  It’s a place to start.  I was so freaked out this afternoon that I forgot to ask for a copy of the lab tests—I want to know what has been eliminated (no puns intended) before I start cranking up to pursue anything else google—or southdowner or Diane in MN or any of you other dog people—care to suggest.   I’ve been researching my few remaining brains out for homeopathic possibilities, but this is hampered by the fact that only licensed vets are allowed to treat animals†† so the info isn’t out there to anything like the same extent that you can research homeopathy for humans.  Then there’s the whole taking-the-case problem with something that doesn’t speak a human language.  A homeopath’s case-taking is waaaaaaay more thorough than the average medical dude’s.  And of course the first rule of all healers of any stripe is:  Don’t treat your own family.

After this unsatisfactory and upsetting conversation with this blinkered idiot who calls himself a veterinarian, I took the hellhounds out for their afternoon hurtle.

And Chaos—who is generally the more internally stable of the two—promptly geysered.

This is a nightmare.

* * *

* If they’ve parked too near, I can’t turn around at all.  I HATE backing out.  HATE.  The way Wolfgang-era VW Golfs are designed, you’ve got a whacking great blind spot between the passenger seat windows and the rear window.  I could back in in the first place but that’s still backing.  And I always hope the blocking car will have MOVED by the time I have to get out.  Which it usually has.  Just not always.

** See:  the pleasures of driving a seventeen-year-old car.

*** Note that I’ve got the hellhounds on bottled water.  I was planning on giving it a week and if there was ANY indication of change I’d put the hellterror—and me—on as well.  That was about five days ago.  I’m still going to get my water at the cottage tested because it’s something to do, but I’m not expecting useful results from that either.

† They are presently eating about half a small meal in three.  Maybe.

†† Don’t get me started.  A licensed vet can take a weekend course in homeopathy and then claim to know how to use it on his clientele.

The Annual Mottisfont Post


Except it isn’t, because the roses aren’t out yet.  It was really interesting to be there when it’s not covered in roses.  COVERED.  IN.  ROSES.  I mean, is there any other reason to go to Mottisfont?*  Ahem.

But my cousin is here** and . . . and . . . and we had to do something.  I did think Mottisfont’s roses would be beginning to come out—mine are—but it’s been such a cold, wet, nasty, uninviting spring and things are still kind of hunkered down waiting to be encouraged to grow.***  And Wolfgang knows the way to Mottisfont.  There are other big romantic National Trust properties technically within my driving range, but the only one I go to with anything like regularity is Mottisfont, and when in the ME is being unkind† I want to keep my adventures small and manageable.

And they’ve opened an old book shop next to the standard National Trust shop††.  Which contains not a single knitting book.  Not even one.†††



Mottisfont on a May bank holiday weekend on, furthermore, a NICE day. Sunlight. Blue skies. Chirping birds.



Oh WordPress you angel, you adorable one.  You’ve eaten the caption.  It said something like:  A ROSE!!!!  Probably hugonis.  But I’m not sure about the foliage and I forgot to check while I was there.

I don’t think I even knew Mottisfont had tulips–although gardens in England do tend to have tulips–because they’re over by the time I’m there for the ROSES.


Iris. I love iris. And can’t grow them for nuffing. Arrrgh.


Spring border. Also it’s so TIDY. By late midsummer when the roses have been out for a few weeks everything is getting a little out of control. Which is reassuring.



A BANK of purple iris. Siiiiiiiiigh



This is one of those famous Mottisfont scenes, with roses growing around the door. Except there are no roses.

Aaaaaaaaaaand . . . that one took almost ten minutes to load because WordPress ingests long-dead gopher guts and craps yellow.  I’M TIRED AND I WANT TO GO TO BED.  I’ll post the last few photos some other day.

* * *  National collection of old roses.  And some other stuff.

** News flash:  McKinley has relatives.    Yes, but not very many.   My cousin is an only child, I’m an only child, my mother had only the one brother, my father had one brother whom I never met.  My cousin married another only child . . . both of whose parents were one of twelve.  And I thought the Dickinsons were a terrifying clan.

*** Although I did get my broad beans planted before they actually fell over.  I even got them staked. I know you don’t believe me.  I wouldn’t believe me either.  I’ll try to take a photo before they grow up past the string and fall over anyway.

And I’m stressed out of my freaking mind with the domestic wildlife.  Hellhounds didn’t eat for two days . . . they’ve eaten a little today, with expressions clearly indicating that they are only doing this because I am a big mean hysterical bully.  I have the joy of trying to feed them again as soon as I get this post organized.  La la la la la la.  One of the reasons I keep getting to bed so late lately is the putting off of the miserable depressing business of trying to feed hellhounds.  Hellterror has had another wild bout of geysering, which she is getting over—again—but it’ll be back.  At least she eats.  Oh, dear heaven, may the lab find something.  And may they find it TOMORROW.

Meanwhile, I wonder how much hellterror’s heat is aggravating everything else, including her bowels and the hellhounds’ extreme disinterest in food.  And while this is the least of all these issues, I’m also kind of tired of mopping the floor every time she’s been out of her crate, washing the floor of her crate every time she’s out sprinting around causing more mopping elsewhere, and washing frelling bloody bedding.  I’ve just ordered half a dozen more cheapest-I-can-find fleece blankets so I don’t run out, although fortunately el cheapo acrylic fleece dries really fast once you’ve banged it through the washing machine the second time this week..  And this coming in season thing happens EVERY SIX MONTHS?  Maybe I’ll be lucky and she’ll only do it once a year.

Hellhounds are obviously a little wired by this performance but the situation is still supportable.  Just about.  I could put up with almost anything else if hellhounds would eat.

†† And on the other side of the giftee shoppe is an excellent ice cream shop—so I’m told, my ice cream days being behind me—but today I discovered that they also sell excellent chocolate biscuits.  The kind that are both gooey-chewy and crunchy.

††† F&SF is almost as bad, there being a Brian Jacques, a Tad Williams, and three Stephen Kings.  Sigh.


Surviving the installation of a new bathroom (i) – guest post by AJLR


When we first thought about getting a new bathroom, back last autumn, my our plans were fairly simple: ‘the old bathroom fittings have been there 17 years and it would be good to have something new’. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say. Nope, nothing at all…except it didn’t stop there.

Our old bathroom was a traditional one – pedestal washbasin and loo, bath with electric shower over, old-fashioned 1970s radiator (as were all the radiators in the house), medicine cabinet on the wall. You know the sort of thing. Nice safe stuff – retro-styled white fittings, a vinyl-tiled floor, skirting board round the bottom of the walls. Nothing to make the heart beat faster.

As we started looking at bathroom catalogues and dipping a tentative toe into the world of modern bathroom design it became clear fairly quickly that we wanted more of a change than just a ‘new for old’ type of update. For one thing, neither I nor my husband likes a bath (I realise that this will be heresy to many people). I know a lot of people, Robin included, see a bath session as somewhere/some time to relax. For me, I get into a bath, lie back…and think ‘is this it?’. Give me a good forceful shower and plenty of space and I’m much happier. . Oh yes, that was the first thing – we live in a bungalow, a single-storey house. That was why we had the electric shower originally, some seven years ago, because there isn’t enough of a drop (from the hot water tank in the airing cupboard to the bathroom) to give any sort of force to a shower running off the normal hot water system).  So, if we wanted to run the new shower off the normal hot water, then we would need to add a pump in the loft space.

Second thing – we have solid floors everywhere. If we wanted to change the layout of the bathroom then we were going to have to have the floor dug up in places for the pipework changes to be made.

Third thing – the lighting in the bathroom was something I had always loathed, entirely. An old-fashioned strip light that buzzed so much it was like sharing the room with a demented hornet. Plus, the light it gave was guaranteed to put the worst possible view of oneself to the forefront of one’s mind, every time an incautious glance was directed towards the mirror stand. Eeeeeee…..! Not good for the heart, or the emotions.

Fourth thing – even with opening the window on all possible occasions, it was difficult to keep the bathroom clear of damp, given the amount of washing time we normally clock up between us. We needed some sort of extractor fan, particularly as the bathroom comes off our hallway, between sitting room and bedrooms. No-one wants their visitors to be wreathed in steam…

Fifth thing – I just wanted something better, something interesting, something that would mean I could enjoy that space. The room is a reasonable size for a bathroom in a smallish house– around nine feet by seven feet – we had a bit of leeway to try and rearrange things.

And finally, neither of us wanted all the hassle of contracting and scheduling plumbers, plasterers, electricians, floor-layers, etc, etc. We wanted, if possible, to find one company that would arrange and project-manage the whole thing.

So, where did we go with all this? We were lucky in that one of our neighbours had had a new bathroom installed by a local firm some two years ago. Our friends invited us in to look around, see how they had changed things and why, discuss how things had worked out. It was very helpful, seeing how they’d done things and what the outcome had been. Plus it gave us some idea of what the likely cost might be – we were probably going to be living on bread and dripping for years afterwards but it would be worth it!

We then talked to a couple of (very brave or very foolhardy) bathroom companies and eventually settled on the people that our neighbours had used, given their positive reports on the experience and the aftercare. We went deep into the wonderland of giant shower stalls, digital controls, wall-mounted everything, you name it, we wanted it. I felt a bit like a child in a sweet shop – ‘Oooh, one of those, and that one, and could you throw in a bit of….’. We had some design ideas of our own when it came to layout but we also relied heavily on the professional knowledge of the installers. Finally, after a completely boggling session with them on the colours of various elements: wall panels; flooring; tiles; tops of cupboards; walls – and the shapes of taps, washbasin (we’re both splashy people so the basin had to be BIG if we were to avoid perpetually mopping the floor), walk-in shower area, lighting – we had everything as settled as it could be. OK, we can do this (we thought).

Do you know how long it takes to gut a bathroom and completely re-do it? Two weeks we were told. Once everything had been ripped out then the floor had to be partly dug up and the walls excavated for the pipework changes, the walls and new ceiling needed to be replastered. I may have drifted off a bit part way through the list but what it amounted to was that everything had to be made good and then allowed to dry out over at least a weekend before any of the new stuff could be put in. We only have one bathroom and no separate cloakroom. Plus – and this was a fairly big plus – for reasons I won’t go into it had seemed like a good idea some weeks previously to get a new CH boiler installed and update the radiators so that they each had their own thermostat. Guess what dates the central heating people wanted to come? Yup, two days of those same two weeks.  So, right in the middle of the coldest spring in 40 years, we were going to be reduced to what might politely be termed ad hoc washing arrangements, there would be no heating for two days, we would have at least four workmen in the house during all daylight hours, and one of our two cats Does Not Like Strangers. Is it any wonder I started to think wistfully of the nice warm quiet business hotels I used regularly to go away to for work?

To be continued.


Oh help, what have we done?!

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