Cat on a cold patio roof.

IMG_4700Anyone who has a cat will tell you that they are experts when it comes to psychological warfare. Whilst you crave their love and attention (because just look at them! Fluffy, purring balls of cute!), they treat you with contempt, tolerating you long enough to provide belly rubs and food on their terms. They often call the shots in the relationship. They can do what they want – they are independent (ish). This is my cat Dwight Kat Shrute. A big, fat, four year old tabby, who only seeks us out for a belly rub, food or to sleep on our legs at night when we fall asleep. He is an indoor cat, his only foray out of the house is when he darts into the garage as we go in and out in the course of putting our washing through the dryer. He will run in, flop on the concrete and then proceeds to roll all over the floor. He has a nosey through the tools and bits and pieces that we have stored in the garage. If we are not quick enough, he will even spring up into the dryer (often on top of the clean clothes fresh out from the washing machine). When he gets in the dryer, he then seems to puff himself up so as to make it hard for us to remove him from the dryer.

Whilst he likes to sit by the window and watch the birds outside, he prefers to be inside where he gets the house, great food and the dryer. We were proud that our cat shunned the great outdoors – look at our cat, being responsible and not out there killing native wildlife. What a great cat we have.

You know sometimes it is bad to get complacent…

Last month my parents were visiting from interstate. My husband and I had turned our young son’s bedroom into the guest room and Mish got to camp out in the home office. In preparing his bedroom for my parents to sleep in, I noticed that the window flyscreen had fallen out and onto the patio roof. We would sort that out later (my dad actually fixed it for us), but at the time we were not too worried as the window was fitted with a safety lock, so the window could only be slid open no more than a gap of 12cm. My husband slid the window open to let fresh air into the room, and I made the comment “maybe we should keep the bedroom door closed whilst the window is open. I don’t want Dwight to get out.” Mike looked at me as if I had two heads, “what? Really? No, he won’t fit through that tiny gap. Look at him, the cat is a tank! Too fat to make that little gap. Plus, he has never shown an interest in getting out. Pffft!” Still, I insisted that the room remained closed off for as long as the window was open.

Later that evening my parents arrived and we spent the night catching up on everything over dinner. The kids were loving being with their Nanny and Poppy. Ripley, our dog, remembered my dad from the last visit and she was all over him like Velcro (he is the bringer of cookies and bones). Our guinea pig, Doctor Who sat in his hutch and kept staring at mum – I believe it was because he recognised a fellow vegan in my mum. Dwight thundered down the stairs and into the lounge. He stopped and stared at us all before going over and giving Ripley a quick cat bath. They had a play fight and Dwight sat on his little armchair and watched us all for a few minutes before heading in to the kitchen for his dinner.

As the night wore on, we decided it was time to all head off to bed. I got Tilly and Mish sorted and tucked up in their beds. My parents changed and settled down in the guest room. Mike went into the study to play a quick game of warships on his computer, whilst I headed back downstairs to do a final check of the doors and windows. As I walked around downstairs I realised that I had not seen Dwight since he wandered out of the lounge room hours earlier. Usually he comes back downstairs to circle me in the hopes I will give him an extra packet of food before bed. I called out for him. Nothing. I searched all of the downstairs, behind furniture. No cat. I went into the garage on the chance that maybe he snuck in as I was changing the laundry over in the dryer. I poked about the tools and boxes. No cat. I turned and looked at the dryer which was thumping away. My heart froze. No! Did he jump in the dryer without me realising? Surely not! Oh my GOD! With my heart pounding and hands trembling, I paused the dryer and opened the door. The warm air rushed out at me. I sniffed, relieved that all I could smell was warm, clean sheets and not singed fur. I began to take the sheets out of the dryer and let out a huge sigh of relief when I saw that Dwight was not in the dryer.

Alright, so not downstairs, he must be in his usual spot – under my bed. I run upstairs and into my bedroom where I called out to him before dropping to my hands and knees to look under the bedframe. He was not there. Home office – nope. Tilly’s room – nope. Mish’s (guest) room – nope. I was getting annoyed. Where was this bloody cat? Mike was not concerned. He continued his computer game, convinced the cat would appear out of thin air as cats so often do. My parents though were just as bewildered as I was as to where he could be, and they came out to help me look for him. We did another search of the house to no avail. The only thing left would be outside. But how? Oh my God, the WINDOW! Mike was still incredulous of my theory that Dwight had managed to slip into the room and squish himself through a 12cm gap and out to freedom.

Mum and I went out to the backyard whilst dad looked out the bedroom window onto the patio roof. He was not on the roof, not in the backyard. Maybe he jumped across to the neighbours’ patio which winds around to a big garden with trees. From there he would climb down and into another yard. I had a vision of my big fat cat wandering around the pool in the yard behind our home. What if he got down, but could not get back up over the fence to come home? I came in to see that Mike had decided to join the search party and had gone out the front to see if he could find this cat of ours. He shook his head at mum and I. So we went out to look for ourselves. I crawled around the communal driveway, peeking under parked cars. Mum poked about in the garden beds. We make clicking and cooing sounds. God knows what the neighbours made of it – two women outside rummaging through the gardens, making weird sounds – at twelve o’clock at night. It was freezing and I began to get upset and angry that Dwight could do this to me. I bought him his favourite food earlier that day, I let him shred my arm as he let me rub his belly, and now he has the audacity to leave me. Break up with me without as much as a post-it-note (a little Sex and the City reference there).

As I stood by the trees, feeling hopeless, rejected and pissed off because it was freezing cold and I was no doubt cementing my neighbours opinion of me as being a bit odd, I heard a rustling. I looked up into the branches and in the dim light I could make out a grey, furry body and a little face with big black eyes and twitching whiskers. “Dwight!” I gasped. Mum heard me and came running over to where I stood. “Oh, not Dwight. Just a possum.” As it sat in the tree peering down at mum and I, we stood with arms outstretched, wriggling our fingers to try and coax it down so we could pat it. Looking back, not a smart move on our part as mum and I have shit night vision, so for all we know, we could have been offering our arms and fingers to a large rabid rat. We were none the wiser.

Possum

Not the possum mum and I encountered (and tried to adopt), but looks exactly like it (image: free stock).

 

It was no use. The possum/rat grew bored with us and climbed over the fence. Mum and I were freezing, we both realised we were out walking around on the cold concrete barefoot. We had to go back inside, there was nothing more we could do. Dwight was gone. Inside, mum and I decided we would camp out in the lounge room so we would hear Dwight if he returned. Mike and Dad did a final look out the upstairs windows overlooking the patio roof, but Dwight was nowhere to be seen. Soon the house was quiet. Kids, Mike and Dad were sound asleep. Mum and I sat up in the lounge room, mum offered me words of comfort. She assured me that Dwight would come back home. If someone found him, they would help him because he is such a lovely cat. We could check with the vet and council in the morning to see if he had been brought in. “He will come home Jassie. I know he will.” In my head I was seeing him being skittled by a car – we are surrounded on all sides by main roads. I saw him being attacked by a dog – he has grown up with our Ripley, but she is such a dope of a love pupper, she would never hurt a fly. I saw him being picked up by a stranger and taken in as their new cat.

*With the help of my mum and  my brother James’ artistic skills, these were my picks for the Lost Cat posters for Dwight.

I was woken around 2.30 am by Ripley sneaking over to Dwight’s food bowl and scoffing the cat treats I had put in the bowl the night before. She was quite loud (she can’t do stealth). I grumbled at her to get out of it. The sound of Ripley eating the cat food carried up the stairs and woke up my dad who came downstairs to check on mum and I. When he returned upstairs to his room, he heard a rage carrying on outside the window. Next minute he runs back down to mum and me, excitedly informing us he had found Dwight. He was outside the bedroom window on the patio roof! Mum and I leapt up and into action. I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a tin of cat food and a sachet of diet shake (thought it was a pouch of cat food). I handed the tin to mum and she grabbed a fork and ran out into the backyard and proceeded to tap on the side of the tin, calling out for Dwight. I ran back up the stairs with dad, where he shone his torch out the window. There was our tank of a cat, Dwight Kat Shrute, sitting there like Jack Nicholson in the final scene of The Shining, glaring at us, it was clear to see he was pissed off with being stuck on the patio roof. Dad tried to coax him over to the window, but Dwight sat and stared at him. I held out the diet shake packet and shook it. Dwight looked offended – he is quite sensitive about his weight apparently.

The Shining

Jack Nicholson kindly re-enacts Dwight’s patio roof discovery scene (stephenking.wikia.com)

 

I then ran into my bedroom to wake up Mike (and I also needed to pee). As he staggered toward me, I quickly informed him “cat is on the roof!” and then I threw the packet of diet shake at his face and bolted into the bathroom. When I finished, I opened the bathroom door to see Mike still standing there holding the packet of diet shake and looking offended – he is quite sensitive about his weight apparently. I explained the packet was for him to shake at the cat, who is almost frozen on the roof. Mike, in his still sleep foggy and offended state could not figure out how the cat got on the roof. “The PATIO ROOF!” I said, and then ran out of our room to head downstairs and out into the yard where mum was still out there, in her pyjamas, barefoot on the cold grass, hopping from one foot to the other, tapping the tin and calling out to Dwight “Dwighty!” *ting, ting, ting* “Dwighty boy!” *ting, ting, ting*.

Dwight let out a really loud and long howl of outrage. Mike had now joined mum and me with a ladder. He set it up and dad steadied it as I climbed up to see Dwight. Mike had gone back upstairs to the window. One of us would get him down. I held out my hands and softly called out to Dwight. He sat, like a big hairy lump and glared at me. He would not budge. Instead he let out another really loud howl. Oh my God our poor neighbours! Mike leaned out the window, he called out to Dwight. Dwight looked at Mike and then back over to me. He wasn’t moving. By now I was getting really impatient and grumbled at the cat “Dwight you fucking womble, get off the roof!”

Meanwhile, Mike was now dangling precariously out over the windows edge, arms outstretched. Dwight finally, FINALLY got up and moved to Mike and for a moment we held our collective breath as Dwight appeared to then hesitate just out of Mike’s grasp. He seemed to be contemplating the neighbours patio roof, and I was waiting to see Mike lose his balance, tip out and over the window and slide on his belly down and over the edge of the patio roof, where he would land in a crumpled heap in the garden bed below; I would have laughed out loud at this thought if I was not cold and tired and desperate to get the cat back in the house.

Dwight moved closer to Mike, however his eyes remained firmly locked on the neighbours’ patio. Just as it looked like he would do the bolt, Mike swooped down and grabbed him and quick as lightening, pulled the cat back inside. Hurrah! Dad, mum and I ran inside and we greeted Mike as he came downstairs with Dwight balled up in his arms. The cat was freezing to the touch, and we were all relieved that we found the shit head and he was back indoors where he belonged after being out on the roof for a good couple of hours.

Since then, we came to the conclusion that Dwight was quite happy outside, it was only when he heard Ripley eating his food that sent him into a panic and he began making noise to come back in. Following his adventure, he spent the next few days hiding under our bed. He has not set paw back outside, obviously for fear of Ripley eating his food on him.

Lesson of the story? I was right, Mike was wrong. I’m gonna sing the I Was Right song! Oh, and our cat is a dick (but we love him!)

 

Until next time!

 

Jasmine x

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A Haunting in the Hawkesbury

 

It was late 2008, during a Friday luncheon at the oldest hotel in Australia, the Macquarie Arms Hotel in Windsor, NSW; when my daughter Tilly (who was two years old at the time) had an encounter with one of the hotel’s residents – of the paranormal kind. But, before I go any further Dear Reader, I will first go into a brief history of the Macquarie Arms Hotel…

 

In 1815, Governor Lachlan Macquarie had granted land to emancipated convict Richard Fitzgerald. The instruction given to Mr Fitzgerald by Governor Macquarie was for him to build a two-story hotel that would service the town of Windsor and provide accommodation to passing gentry. Mr Fitzgerald set to work, and in 1818 the Macquarie Arms was opened to the public. The hotel was also known as the Royal Hotel (1872-1900) and in its early years was occupied by the 73rd Regiment Red Coat Soldiers – who lived in the upper levels while down in the cellar, the convicts lived. The convicts managed to secure themselves access to rum, smuggling it up from the banks of the Hawkesbury River through the aptly named “Rum Smugglers Tunnels” to keep themselves merry and warm whilst living in the cellar.

Later, the Macquarie Arms would become a private residence before reverting back into a hotel.

With such longevity, it goes without saying that the hotel has a life within it. Tales of ghosts are inevitable in a place so old and so worn as the Macquarie Arms. From reports of seeing soldiers on the upper levels, to run-ins down in the cellar with convict brothers Richard and Fitzpatrick, who met an explosive demise in the cellar thanks to an incorrect mix of chemicals in their endeavour to make rum. Then there are the stories of little Mary who lived in the main bedroom on the second floor and at seven years of age, had perished in a fire that had trapped her on the upper floor of the hotel.

Back to late 2008 and the luncheon. I had been to the Macquarie Arms a few times prior to getting married and having children, but this was the first time going there with our daughter. At the time I was also pregnant with our son Mish, and as a stay at home mum with a rambunctious toddler and another bub on the way, I was looking forward to eating a meal that I had not prepared, and spending time in the company of other adults. I love the Macquarie Arms Hotel, as I walked through the gate I looked down at the well-worn steps (it was the last time I was able to see my feet and the ground beneath me before the big belly swell) and found myself wondering about all the people that had stepped through over the 190 years the hotel had been standing. Tilly, holding my hand, leapt up over the big step with ease and she began to try and wrestle herself free of my grip, wanting to march right through the front entrance on her own.

Stepping through the entrance, Tilly and I stood and waited for my husband to arrive. Whilst waiting, I looked at the lunch time menu deciding I would have one of everything (what? I was eating for two!) and when I looked down at Tilly to ask her what she would like from the children’s menu, I found her engaged in chatter with someone off to our right in the dining room. She was smiling, waving and saying “Hi! My name is Tilly!” She would wave again and let out a giggle. She then put her little hand over her eyes and went “peek-a-boo!” Hmmmm…okay. I sidled back so I could see into the dining room to see who she was talking to. I couldn’t see anyone there. I walked over, holding Tilly’s hand and stood in the doorway of the dining room. It was empty save for tables and chairs. Tilly was still chatting away to someone…something…

“Imaginary friend” I thought as my husband arrived and we proceeded upstairs and onto the balcony that faced over towards the Hawkesbury River.

Tilly and I were seated on the end of the table closest to the doorway into the hotel. We were facing the direction toward the far end of the balcony and the river. Tilly, in her high chair looked about and then her gaze settled on the far corner of the balcony. She smiled and immediately began waving and saying “Hello! Hello again man!” I followed her gaze and the corner was empty. I wanted in on this, so I asked her who she was talking to. “That man” she said, pointing over to the corner. “What man?” I asked, the hairs on my arms began to stand up. “The man there in the red coat. See?” No, I didn’t, I didn’t see, couldn’t see, but it did not mean that something was not there. Her face told me that there was something, someone standing right there, and they too were interacting with her.

Then as lunch was served, Tilly, who had been happily chatting away to the “man in the red coat” suddenly waved in the direction of the corner and said “bye-bye!” and that was it. She turned her attention to her food and made a stellar mess of the kid’s serving of spaghetti bolognaise, turning herself orange and smelling of tomato sauce. Over lunch, I quietly informed my husband, who has a very weak disposition when it comes to all things spooky of what had just transpired, and he instead chose to cling to the hope it was just an imaginary friend and she was just being a typical toddler. I decided to think of it as that way too, until it came to her afternoon nap when we got home from the lunch. As I sat on the side of her bed patting her to sleep, she sleepily said; “He was a soldier…” and with that she rolled over and was sound asleep.

BOOM! (or should that be BOOOOO!) Paranormal activity right there!

Fast forward to last Friday evening where after spending all day cooped up in my home office working, decided to drag the kids out and head into Windsor to stock up on candy from the lolly shop and maybe grab some dinner whilst in town. Satisfied with our candy stockpile, we wandered down in the direction of the restaurants that sit adjacent from the Hawkesbury River. We were intending on having stir-fry, but as we approached, I found myself looking across the road at the Macquarie Arms Hotel. I had not been there since that lunch in 2008 and I knew that we had to go there for dinner instead. The kids were immediately sold on the proposal – they know all too well of Tilly’s encounter and the history of the hotel, and they were now hoping to see if the soldier or one of the other ghostly occupants would make themselves known over a chicken schnitzel, fish and chips and a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise, washed down with a few glasses of lemon squash (lemonade for my dear overseas readers) while seated in the exact same place we were sitting in back in 2008.

 

Unfortunately for whatever reason, the ghosties did not feel in the mood to join us for dinner – however this did not stop those of us alive from engaging in a discussion on all things paranormal in the Hawkesbury region. I was telling the kids about other stories I have read regarding the paranormal activities in this area – and there are plenty of stories and first (second, third… ) hand accounts available on line should you wish to investigate it further (I have provided some links on the Hawkesbury region and paranormal accounts for your further reading pleasure).

Although we were stood up by the spirits, I did take the opportunity to take some photos of the upper level of this beautiful building. I will be honest – I was hoping to capture a flash of a human shape or an orb, but no luck (I did get the tip of my shoe in the photo of the staircase, but that does not count). I will however, in the near future be looking at going on a local history/ghost tour of Windsor so you just may never know what I will see then… I will keep you all posted!

Jasmine x

IMG_4738

Sunset over the Hawkesbury River

*All photos are mine, and were taken using my trusty old iPhone 6S Plus – JJ

Links for further reading:

http://www.macquariearms.com.au/history/

http://www.discoverthehawkesbury.com.au/heritage/heritage-trails

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85930517

https://www.hawkesburygazette.com.au/story/3905753/the-ghost-of-the-regent/

http://unexplainedaustralia.com/21-ghosts-hauntings/68-wisemans-ferry-ghosts

 

 

First Crush…

Pickles and Squish

As a mum, I get to be there for my kids as they experience their first moments. Most of these –  their first word, first solid belly laugh, first crawl, step, walk, solid food, day of school, etc… have been filled with joy and excitement. However recently, we had some firsts that were not pleasant…

 
A few weeks into the new school year, my 11 (almost 12!)-year-old daughter would greet me after school and tell me all about this new boy in her class. He was nice to her, he was funny, he had the same interests as her (anime, video games and science geeks). It was when she started to mention things like his nice hair, his smile and the colour of his eyes that I tweaked and realised that what I was witnessing was my daughter’s first crush. She was smitten with this boy and to me he sounded like a decent kid. I thought it was cute the way she would blush and go coy when I mentioned his name, and how she would smack her little brother when he teased her about her crush. Watching and listening to her, made me think of my first crush when I was her age. His name was Jeff, and he had come over from America and started year 6 in my class. At the time I, and every other girl in my year 6 class would go all dreamy-eyed whenever he was around. He was to us in 1993, what Johnny Depp was to girls back in the 80’s. Jeff never paid me any attention though – unlike my daughter who bears an uncanny resemblance to Audrey Hepburn and Emma Watson, I was more Pippi Longstocking meets Punky Brewster.

 
But I digress. As time went on, my daughter thought that this boy really liked her, and she started to develop more than a crush on him, until one afternoon when it all fell down.

 
I picked her and her brother up from school, and as I approached where they were sitting, I noticed that my daughter was sitting there looking sad and confused, whilst her little brother was jumping around and playing with the toy dinosaur he had snuck in his bag to school that day. I greeted them and as we walked back to the car I asked her what was wrong. She vented about the day’s event – this boy humiliated her in front of all her friends after she told him that she really liked him. He made fun of her and said that he didn’t like her, he was only hanging around her because he likes her best friend. Mumma Bear was not happy, and I felt my chest tighten as I saw her face crumple. I did my best to cheer her up and she assured me that she was okay and “over it, he is just a jerk anyway”, but I knew. I have had many a heart break over stupid boys who did the exact same thing to me growing up.

pexels-photo-14303.jpeg
Later that night when I was sitting in the lounge room reading, my daughter came downstairs to sit with me. I looked at her and I saw her eyes filled with tears, her bottom lip trembled, and she sobbed “no mum, I am not okay. It hurts. My heart hurts.” I scooped her up and just hugged her as she cried. I wanted to rip into this boy for being so cruel towards my daughter who had been nothing but kind to him, the new kid in the school, in her class. When she settled down, I shared my own experience with “jerk boys” and we had a laugh as we made fun of all these boys. That Friday night we set up a girl’s night, were we ate copious amounts of spaghetti bolognaise, sour candy, ice cream and chocolates as we binged-watched Gilmore Girls on Netflix (my daughter loves Dean, and hopes to one day when she is older find her Dean to her Rory).

 

As we watched the show, we talked about this boy and I supported her decision to have nothing to do with him, or her now former best friend (who had joined in the taunting with this boy – further hurting her). I made it clear to her that I had her back and fully supported anything she wanted to do. Back at school, she stuck to her guns and I stood by her. Her former best friend wanted to know why my daughter didn’t hang around her anymore. The boy wanted to know why she would avoid him like the plague. Her teacher noticed the behaviour and my daughter explained what was going on, and her teacher (who is the coolest teacher ever) supported my daughter too. Soon she had bounced back and was happy.

 
With that “first” now behind me, I was soon confronted with another painful first to deal with – this time being my 9-year-old son. After school we head over to a park to play and burn off extra energy. Whilst my daughter was on the swings, my son on the jungle gym equipment, I sat down on the bench in the shade to keep an eye on the kids. My son though was just out of my vision when his “first” happened. One minute I see him on the platform, the next he comes limping over to me, doubled up, pale and his hands clasped down over his…yep. He had crushed his boy parts for the very first time. I led him over to the bench, tears welled in his eyes, and between gasps, he was able to tell me that he had slipped on the ladder and his legs went either side of the ladder rung. Bang. Whilst I don’t share the anatomy, I do share the agony as I guess it could be likened to that of childbirth.

 
I realised that I could help him through this – the breathing technique you learn in antenatal classes! I admit the breathing technique was not used once during either of my labours (I resorted to yelling, sobbing uncontrollably, pleading for a stand in to take my place and holding my breath in retaliation to being told no to the birth stand in), but now, right here on the park bench I could use it and use it I did! I became my son’s birthing partner – I talked him through the technique and we puffed, puffed, panted until colour returned to his face and he was able to unfurl from the foetal position. He continued the breathing until he was then able to sit upright, and the pain was nothing more than an ebb. I knew he was on the mend when he managed to shoot a glare and a terse “SHUT UP! IT’S NOT FUNNY! I COULD HAVE LOST MY NUTS!” to his sister who was watching the situation from the swing set, amused.

 
The next day I kept him home from school to take things easy and we watched movies and ate pizza shapes, ham and cheese sandwiches and drank lots of milo until he felt back to his normal self.

 
As for me, I have chalked these events up in the growing list of firsts for them, and I consider myself very blessed that I was able to be there for both of them when they needed me, to help them through their situations, and I hope they know that I will be there for them for everything that is yet to come their way.

 
Motherhood is awesome.