Archive | December 2012


This article won me £250 at Winchester in 2012.  I hope you enjoy it.

Public Transport for me

I must be a Climate Change activist’s dream.  After years behind the wheel, I’ve become a devoted fan of public transport.  From my upper deck seat, I peer down on stationary lines of cars belching toxic fumes and wonder how, with today’s prices, those inside afford the petrol.  I certainly can’t.

The environmental dangers of fossil fuels cannot be disputed.  Ninety-three per cent of transport emissions stem from road use, yet for all the trumpet-blowing, congestion charge and bus passes, 85% of travel is still by car.  This, despite the average price of unleaded petrol hitting £1.42 in March.  Filling up a Ford Mondeo now costs £100, but clearly drivers still love their cars enough to join queues panic-buying at forecourts.

Recent price hikes remind me of my father’s comment in the 1970s oil crisis.  ‘Surely,’ he said, ‘we won’t go back to horse and cart?’  This, when we’d been told ‘the party’s over’.  Prices quadrupled but not much changed although, in our house, someone tried.

‘Drive slower,’ said he, ‘it uses less.’

I frequently travel on South West Trains, preferring this to tortuous, expensive car journeys and, worse, at peak times, burning petrol to go nowhere fast.  The estimate for driving from Dorset to Brighton on is £44.  Online rail tickets were only £17.80 return, my Senior Railcard saving one-third. 

The further afield we travel, the more cost-effective is the train.  Three years ago, the Saturday direct Eurostar service from St Pancras to Avignon between July and September cost £99 return.  Petrol prices for driving through France would have been prohibitive, let alone ferry charges and extra insurance.  Once there, we did two days’ sightseeing on foot and hired a car for the remaining five.  We are beginning to ‘think differently’ about our holidays, researching buses and trains and using car hire only for less accessible, more scenic places. 

Last year’s visit to the Edinburgh Festival would have cost around £169 in petrol but driving would entail at least one overnight accommodation stop – hazard a guess at current B and B prices – whereas we travelled for less than £180 arriving the same day.  Once there, we walked and used buses, our habit of saying ‘might as well use the car’ now archived.

‘But I couldn’t do it by car for that price,’ I insist to doom-mongers whose response is always to cite the time taken on public transport.  But, journey times are only saved when there are no roadworks, accidents and bottlenecks.  If we are to persuade people to get out of their cars, these attitudes to ‘time urgency’ will need to change.  Failing that perhaps a new mode of working is needed. 

Two of my neighbours do a car-share to work and receive perks for their initiative.  I know two colleges where the car parking spaces have been reduced to discourage single drivers.  In one, car-sharers have a permit for a convenient or under cover space whereas single drivers are forced to park in a muddy perimeter field.  So attitudes are changing.

Five billion bus journeys were taken last year in England alone.  Once accustomed to public transport, I discovered that, with my bus pass, I could also get to work free.  Of course, this is only viable for those working flexible hours but several commuters were travelling by bus from Bournemouth to Swanage at 4.45pm.  With only an hourly service, flexible working is essential.  

Greener Journeys is a coalition of the UK’s leading bus companies committed to persuading people to get out of their cars and on to buses.  The aim is to take one billion car journeys off the road by 2014 – that’s just one in 25 journeys – thereby reducing congestion on the roads and making a significant impact on the level of CO2 emissions by two million tons.  Claire Haigh, Chief Executive, says buses have a key role to play in facilitating access to jobs and in delivering customers to the High Street, both essential to stimulate the economy out of the doldrums.

Bournemouth enjoys a comprehensive bus service to all outlying areas and a service to nearby Poole every three minutes.  If I stand in the Square, I see buses full of passengers everywhere.  Residents of both towns need not use their cars and are reducing their carbon footprint every time they board.

Of course, I can only use my bus pass after 9.25am so, if I travel earlier, I must pay £6.50.  But I am still in pocket as using my car on the same route costs £3.50 each way on the Sandbanks Toll Ferry, before any petrol is used or parking charges paid.  There is no financial competition as far as I am concerned between cars and public transport.

For environmental reasons, we should all be reconsidering our addiction to the motor car but I claim public transport is better for the country’s physical and mental health.  Of course, public transport isn’t door-to-door and some walking is necessary – between bus stops, to the station or even between platforms.  No bad thing with obesity rising.  But there are other hidden benefits.

Recently, I took my grand-daughter back home to South Bucks after a short stay.  Fuel-Economy estimated £40 for petrol but our train tickets were £30, a saving of 25%.  Also, we could read books and talk making a more pleasant, memorable and healthy journey.

As our train leaves, I note the hushed calm in the carriage.  Passengers are reading text messages and emails on their phones and researching on websites.  There are quiet carriages where annoying mobile phones are banned.  People tap laptops and draft written reports in notebooks.  The retired read newspapers, paperbacks and puzzle over Sudokus and crosswords. 

Come and join us, boost your health and save the planet.

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Deaf Not Daft

I would love to hear more from you for my book Deaf not Daft – growing up with a deaf sibling. A constant fight against ignorance eh

I will leave the comments below perhaps about the use of D and d
I am so tired after a very difficult day.
Thanks for keeping in touch and I do get your posts and will be back in touch after end of May although you can always tweet me or see me on Facebook at Di Castle – Writer.

I would love to hear more from ANYBODY who can give me anecdotes and interesting experiences of ignorance so I can get them all in the book and deal with it humorously so that it reaches a mass audience. Keep the comments coming even if I don’t get back immediately.

The Limping Chicken

The Secret Deafie is a series of anonymous columns written by different writers. Our Christmas eve blog is from one Deafie who finds added challenges get in the way of an enjoyable family Christmas…

I have a complex relationship with my family. I don’t mean my immediate family, who all know how deaf I am and are aware of the various rules (don’t stand in front of light, don’t cover your mouth, don’t look away etc.) and who I see regularly enough to keep reinforcing said rules.

I’m talking about my wider family, my cousins, aunts, uncles, and nowadays nieces and nephews (technically cousins-once-removed but hey, who’s counting, and they’re all cute as buttons). I don’t see them very often, usually only at big family events like weddings, funerals – and Xmas.

Though I love them all and they have never been anything less than supportive of me, this is…

View original post 704 more words

Deaf News: Deaf man left battered after horrific attack in Worksop

Deaf News: Deaf man left battered after horrific attack in Worksop.

I have not used Press This before so I hope this is in order for me to publish this.

For the deaf, the face and eyes are the most important part of the body. They need their eyesight to lip read, sign and read sign language. This is appalling and I hope the perpetrators are brought swiftly to justice.

Lessons on our allotment

I cannot believe we have had our allotment just over a year. During this time we have advertised for free or cheap unwanted items and, especially after a few visits to our local second-hand showroom, Bishop’s in Swanage we now find ourselves with a jam-packed shed. There are boots and shoes caked in hard dry mud – amazing when you consider that for about three months of the year in early 2012 we couldn’t set any seed or plants as the soil was rock hard. That was when they were telling us we would have a hosepipe ban well before the Jubilee and …. well ….. no-one dared to think about what might happen during the Olympics.

So do I have anything new to add. Well perhaps you need a little catchup. The blog below was left in drafts – obviously when I was new to WordPress. My main allotment posts have been on BlogSpot and now I have a faint recall of an idea to transfer all the allotment blogs to WordPress. Anyway I can save myself the trouble as I see that further down this post is the link. Read on and you will find where we are in December 2012 …………..

It started something like this ………….’Are you still interested in having an allotment?’ asked the lady from the Council.  Yes, of course I was.  Only a few months before I had received a questionnaire designed to weed out those ‘not so keen’ gardeners from the dedicated on the waiting list. I ticked boxes, circled answers a,b or c, as appropriate, signed the form and sent it straight back to the council.  Now I was being asked if I still wanted one. What did they think I’d answered the questionnaire for?

It was November 2011 and within twenty-four hours I’d agreed on plot 48D(i).  My friend, Pat, who was allocated a large plot the same week told me I could set broad beans and garlic in November.  Pat is up-to-date and ahead in all aspects of her allotment – there is an absence of weeds and she nurtures seeds indoors until they’re well-formed and ready for planting.  Well she does have a conservatory and a garden – I have neither.  Also she doesn’t have grandchildren.  I have six, living in three different geographical areas, five of whom are at school so there is an abundance of concerts, shows and pantomimes especially during December and January.  Needless to say my broad beans didn’t get shoved underground until the end of January.  My allotment neighbour, Mr A, shook his head and tutted.  They would all perish from mice, frost or the deer, he said in a pessimistic tone I was to find far too familiar for comfort over the coming year.  Deer?  What deer?  Yes we have deer. Well, we said, we’ll put up a fence.  Oh no, said Mr A with great glee, the deer can jump this high.  Mr A comes in the shorter variety of men but he raised his hand to convince us there was NO way we would be able to keep the deer at bay.  He was right.  But, as our first season progresses we have encountered more than a few deer.  There have been hares and rabbits eating lettuce, pigeons eating my cabbage plants and slugs eating everything else, usually before I have taken a step back from planting.

On my blog I cover all the crops we have grown and detail our varying degrees of failure and success.  But what no-one told me was that our life and, in particular, my kitchen and cooking methods were all about to suffer a massive culture shock.

So where are we now with Christmas Day only three days away? November and December 2012 have been two very cold months. After enjoying a week in the Lake District, IMG_3402IMG_3404IMG_3409at the end of October when the weather was sunny and generally favourable from early morning until about 2pm, and if we were lucky, til 3pm, we returned home and I became unwell with a few ailments which needed further investigation. No-one wants to hear any bad news but I don’t have any so now I can update you on progress so far this autumn. Not a lot …..

In early October we did lift the potatoes and onions – rather late I think as most people had done this in September. But we had been smitten with potato blight and I was warned that the potatoes, if they became infected, would not keep. An elderly allotment holder – you get the best advice from these sages – told us to chop the foliage down where they had turned black and leave just six inches of stalks. We did spray initially – I shall update with the correct name after my next visit – and we were pleased to see that some of our plants had stayed green so we left a few and just kept our eyes peeled each time we visited. When we lifted them the potatoes from these healthy plants were fairly big but even those which had been halted by our cutting back, had plenty of potatoes. We only eat potatoes about three times a week so we still have some good sized spuds in the vegetable rack.

The other veg/salad that we harvested was beetroot but I didn’t dig all of them as we had quite a lot – spread over two rows. We used some for salads before and after our holiday and then about a week after we returned I felt well enough to walk to the allotment – driving wasn’t really an option – and bring back some produce. I returned with a white cabbage, a large red cabbage, three fair sized leeks which had been bought at East Holme nursery in August/September in two trays. My friend, Pat, bought one tray but I asked for two and now, two days before Christmas, I can see that they are getting larger – amazing really as I was late putting them in.

I digress – October was busy with going away to look after grandchildren whose mother was in Vietnam, seeing friends and having one longstanding friend come to stay for three nights. On the first day, we walked back from the Sandbanks Toll Ferry and lunched in the Bankes Arms and then on the second day we visited Westbourne with its fantastic selection of charity shops and ate in Café Rouge using a Taster Card. My friend, Eilish has paid for a subscription, which, if you live nearer to London and eat out fairly often, might allow it to be worth it but after my free period I have let it lapse. We tend to eat in Swanage – there are ample good eating places – in fact, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out with groups for the usual round of Christmas Dinners. We did venture last week to the Springfield Hotel for their special offer of vegetable soup and turkey dinner for £9.95 each. Not sure it will still be running this offer. I should have told you before.

So in early November I dug up the remaining beetroot and found The Allotment Cook Book through the year by Editor in Chief Caroline Bretherton which my daughter bought me for Christmas last year. Well in this book I found a recipe for soup – beetroot and apple. I have to recommend this book to anyone who is looking to be creative with their produce. That same day I also dug up my parsnips. Now these had been slow to grow but by the end of November they were massive. I left some heaped in a mound of soil and brought back some for our Sunday roast. Another recipe I have used is Spicy carrot and orange soup which was totally delicious but then I became rather blasé about my soupmaking skills and, as parsnips are so cheap in the shops, GRRRR – why is everything so cheap when we have it on the allotment. I will get it right eventually. The last two occasions I have made soup I have thought myself clever enough to make it without referring to Caroline. I used half a bag of Co-op …… oops ….. parsnips and added the same spices and orange and, guess what? Yes, he didn’t realise the mistake either, so I now can recommend alternating the carrots with parsnips.

Last week I did bring back some rather paltry cabbages which have not been covered satisfactorily and have suffered from being eaten by caterpillars. But I cut the best off, washed it and used half on one day and the other half on another day. Hopefully, as I nicked the stalks where I cut – as I was shown to do by my father – when I return after Christmas I should have some sort of ‘sproutings’. Sadly, I don’t have anything much to take to Brighton for our Christmas Dinner but as our host is as good if not better than your winner on Master Chef, I really do not have to worry about this. I may offer up some parsnips though.

I was about to cut some of the Chard, thinking that this will not last as we are already getting frosts up at Prospect Allotments. No frost here as we are too near the sea but up there, it blows an icy blast. I found that in the protected area deep in the heart of the plants there is some good veg forming. I was unlucky with spinach earlier in the year so hopefully we will have some Chard soon. However, I did dig up two more leeks and … whoopee ….. they are nearly as big as the Co-op’s.

In my down time from the allotment when hospital, GP and blood test appointments ruled my weeks, I had begun to throw peelings and tea bags in the kitchen bin despite having a lovely compost bin which cost £20 from John Lewis. My visit a week or more ago has motivated me and this is now overflowing so – goodness knows where I’ll get the time – I shall have to make a visit to Prospect. However, I am back to driving now.

There are some rather fruity smells up at the allotments and we seem to be the only people who haven’t brought or had delivered a large mound of compost. That’s novices for you I’m afraid. Apparently we can go to a local riding stables and barter carrots for manure we clean out ourselves but somehow, Other Half doesn’t seem too enamoured with the idea. So guess who will be off to Studland after Christmas. Yes you got it in 1.

We are having chicken tomorrow – oops it is today already – rather than cook a roast on Sunday when we are trying to pack. I still have in the freezer some cooked potatoes which I salvaged from the worst of the blighted potatoes and, following the advice of another female allotment holder, I peeled them immediately, boiled them and cooled them fast and froze them. They have been making very good roast potatoes so if you are affected by potato blight next year you could follow my example. I shall be cooking the two leeks I brought back a few days ago and a parsnip and making carrot and orange soup, with, unfortunately, a bag from the Co-op. We have been told that carrots do not do well in our part of the allotments although my friend, Pat, did well in her position.

As for broad beans, I have sent away for THREE PACKS of AQUADULCE from Seed Parade once more. We were thrilled with the broad beans and, as we didn’t want to eat them day after day, I froze a good many which we still have with one of our meals in the week. I think we have one pack left and we shall enjoy that as a treat after Christmas. But …… the broad beans are still in the envelope they arrived in and the ground is far too boggy and muddy for planting. A week ago I did try to turn over a row in preparation – only two mini pieces of cooch grass HURRAY – but there was no way I could plant them so, once again, I will be ‘shoving them in the ground in January and placing a polytunnel over them.

Our very expensive first year is at an end so we can look forward to investing in some specially designed cages for our cabbages and, who knows, we may be reporting on more success this time next year.

Well have a very Happy Christmas gardeners everywhere and I hope your home grown veg are as successful as ours have been.

Until next time – A very Happy New Year.

Meanwhile, do please take a look at the blog I follow called ‘blogaboutwriting’

Family Celebration


Family Christmas

Christmas, birthdays,  celebration treats!

Funerals, Weddings, Family meets!


Mum always stressed about the food

Dad always in a grumpy mood.


Grandma didn’t want to come

Dad didn’t want his in-law mum.


Then a row between the brothers

On who got what from departed others.


Baby sicks up on fluffy rug

Grandma laughs and drops beer mug.


Dad shouts ‘You won’t come again!’

Grandma cheers, laughs like a drain.


Rants ‘Rue the day you met my daughter!’

Dad calls police just to thwart her.


Police take Grandma to a cell

Refuse to take the kids as well.


Now Mum and Dad do row a lot

About Gran’s bail and who pays what!


Dad says ‘she aint worth a penny’

And Mum, at Christmas, hasn’t any.


So Grandma stays in cell for season!

Laughs to herself for real good reason.


No more celebration ‘do’!

Queue, as uncle’s drunk in loo.


No looking daft as deaf aid’s broken

And cannot hear the words they’ve spoken.


No more sitting in the corner

With foot in mouth as no-one warned her.


And never’s better than being late

With that daughter’s good-for-nothing  mate!


Next year before that celebration

Someone please plan arbitration.


A Ginger Tom, Spending the children’s inheritance and Hearts definitely not made of stone

Earlier this year I did register on the social media website Good Reads but have not been that prolific at putting book reviews on the site, partly because I have only a small handful of ‘friends’ who are also on Good Reads.  However, when I first began writing blogs last February, after a spell of down time from the world of work, I did post reviews of books.

So what have I been reading lately. Well a wide range of literature. A neighbour left a copy of a Street Cat Named Bob out for me and told me to pass it on when I have finished which I will do in the form of a Christmas card to a friend who has two cats and who adores my own ginger female, Marmalade. Streetcat documents the story of the incredible bond between man and feline whereby James wakes up one morning in his social housing – he is on a Methadone programme – to find a dishevelled cat with several health problems waiting outside his front entrance. He takes the cat in and tends his wounds but the cat makes it clear that he wants to go wherever James goes. James is busking at the time but once Bob is on the scene, his takings in his upturned hat treble. James is a street survivor having lived on the streets for several years before getting his flat. He makes use of the free time available on the internet at the local library and he also knows where he can obtain free medical help for Bob which he does. The cat begins to travel with him wrapped around his shoulders but after meeting up and reconciling himself with his mother in Australia James decides the time has come to get a proper job. He becomes a Big Issue seller and is amused by the attention he and Bob receive and the number of times he is videoed or photographed. One day he hears some Japanese tourists calling to Bob by name and referring to him as The Big Issue Cat. A trip to the library confirms that there is a plethora of pictures and videos on the internet via UTube. One day he is approached by a literary agent who offers him help to write his story about the relationship between himself and the ginger Tom. She finds him a ghost writer and they work together to bring the book to print. You will be unable to read to the end without shedding the occasional tear.

After that I read Blowing It by Judy Astley, a book I have had gathering dust on my bookshelf. I am rescuing the occasional paperback that has patiently awaited its debut. This was an enjoyable and, I think, Chick Lit novel. I am not sure of what defines a book as being in the chick lit category other than it could be a romantic novel. A couple plan to sell their house and travel round on a gap year of their own seeing various festivals on their travels. Their three children who are all in relationships, are not at all pleased with this turn of events. The youngest is planning a gap year but wants everything the same as she left it on her return. The children's relationships begin to wither as the book progresses and amusingly all have returned home after broken romances so their parents find them not only back home but back with the grandchildren. After a predictable – we are told our plots should not be predictable aren't we – brush with death which their father experiences, all arrangements are put on hold but the couple don't give up the idea entirely but plan a move to a nearby house which is less 'tired' and smaller. The Gap year will take place next year, partners are reunited and everyone lives happy ever after.

I then found Hearts of Stone by Audrey Pembroke on a library shelf. Audrey is a fellow member of Swanage Writers’ group and one or two members have read the book. I was very impressed, not only with the main plot and strong characters but with the sub plots which were cleverly interwoven throughout. Perhaps again a slightly predictable ending but this didn’t spoil the story as the manner in which the young heroine made her mark on the people at the big house, maintained her dignity and attracted the attentions of the widowed Sir Alan was fast-paced and the sub plots left as a surprise til the end. What a pity that this book has gone out of print. There are 10 copies available on Amazon being sold at the princely sum of one penny plus postage but, living in Swanage, as does Audrey, I was able to borrow the library copy without requesting it. A good read and not to be missed.

At one stage during the reading of the books above I picked up a Jenny Colgan book from the shelves of Swanage Library. Its title – Diamonds are a girl’s best friend – only became clear on the last two pages so this was a complete surprise. It charts the life of a Very Rich Girl who is waited on by servants – she has never even made herself a cup of tea – until one tragic night when her father dies suddenly. A clause in his will states that she must live independently for six months before she can claim her inheritance. She is resolute in her task striving to find herself accommodation despite having no money and being asked to clean up after three lads and a dog in lieu of rent. Eventually the worst happens when she discovers that her stepmother has sold the house as her father has left debts and failing investments rather than the millions she had expected. The Diamonds seem to escape her clutches but they do reappear in time for a happy ending. The characterisations in this book are excellent and despite her spoilt nature, we can sympathise with Sophie and be willing her to make a success of her life.

Having enjoyed White Tiger by Aravind Adiga I expected to find his Between Assassinations equally compelling but at one quarter of the way through the novel I am fairly confused by all the different characters he is introducing in each chapter. I shall plod on regardless as his writing style is quite captivating.

There are some other books awaiting my attention – one is After the Feast is Finished – which I seem to remember I bought after hearing it reviewed. It is about the aftermath of a bereavement.

Having taken a few lessons out of the Dorling Kindersley Cut the Clutter by Cynthia Townley Ewer I have pulled several pop-psychology books off the shelf and taken them to our local Oxfam Bookshop. Titles such as The Road Less Travelled and Men are from Mars Women are from Venus have been sitting there for years. I have dipped in and out of them periodically but have now come to the age when I think I am past redemption and I cannot recall the last time I looked at them. Others were I’m OK, You’re Ok and Berne’s The Games People Play which I was encouraged to read when I took my teacher training course nearly thirty years ago.

One reason my book shelves are so full of unread books is that my youngest daughter was for many years leading up to motherhood in the publishing world so was able to rescue books from the pulp shelf and, therefore, birthday and Christmases would see a carrier bag o books handed over. Cut The Clutter is a DK book so I believe this may have arrived a year ago when she worked at the publisher for a brief period.

I did offer some of my books to the local library, particularly those concerning reading, spelling and how to cope with dyslexia but I was told that they do not take books in if they are more than five years old. What a shame as the books I have are true classics in the field of Special Needs and are still required reading on the many in-service training courses. I have tried advertising the books locally with no result. I did sell a good many of my teaching books via an ex colleague and also via local networks so I am thinking of re-connecting and seeing if some of these books can find a use with someone else who is still active in the field.

My Christmas email landed in the inbox of an ex colleague who replied asking what I was doing. Not teaching was my answer. I have really come to the end of the road there now that technology seems to have outstripped my capabilities and the brain cells are forever slowing down. Writing is what I do now and I don’t seem to have lost the ability to be prolific. So there is another book I have been reading The Writers’ Handbook 2009. I know I should have an up-to-date one but for many outlets little changes. Having had a spending spree in the summer, I have to say that the best resolution from the book was to go on the Don’t Buy It Diet’ It is amazing how little you need when you keep this affirmation clearly in your head.

A Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to all my readers.

What a tragedy!

When I heard the news that the nurse who had taken the hoax call at the King Edward VII hospital had been found dead, an icy chill swept over me. I am sure many people have made mistakes in their careers and this case reminded me of one I made around 1994 while teaching in a College of Further Education. My tutor group who studied Journalism alongside their A Levels, produced a student magazine once a term. We had been running close to the deadline and I did not make a final check on the content. I suppose in my sub-conscious I knew it passed through several stages including the staff in the print room.

The previous day I had been ‘subbing’ the students’ work on the screen as I worked round the class. One student had included a sexually explicit phrase and we discussed why this would be better replaced with asterisks. I myself inserted the asterisks, trusted the student to accept my decision and sent it for printing. The magazine went on sale in the College bookshop at a time interviews were being carried out for the post of Vice Principal. The incumbent VP was showing the candidates around the College when his attention was drawn to the latest magazine. On opening it, he immediately insisted it be withdrawn from sale and a message sent to my staffroom. When I returned to the staffroom there was an icy silence and a curt message to phone my Line Manager. I was unable to speak to her, the VP refused to speak to me and unfortunately this all happened on a Friday afternoon. There followed what I can only describe as the ‘worst weekend’ in my career and indeed, in my whole life. I was distraught and the whole incident became magnified in my own mind. I didn’t know how I was going to return to College the following Monday. Luckily I had a good friend – a schoolteacher – who listened to me and tried to distract me from thinking that the worst was going to happen, but she didn’t really appreciate the severity of the unfortunate incident. Had I seen an early copy I could have redacted the phrase. I would like to think the student had failed to ‘save’ my changes but I am sure this was unlikely and more likely to have been deliberate.

On the Monday morning I went to see my Line Manager expecting dismissal – that really was how it seemed to me at the time. Her first words were ‘I nearly phoned you at home’. How I wished she had as it would have saved much anguish. In hindsight I feel that the matter was not handled well enough at the time. Luckily it never caused me to lose the will to live but I was beset with feelings of shame and guilt which took some time to fade.

On a lighter note, the rest of the team – who some may have called subversive – believed the magazine should never have been withdrawn. I thought it was the right decision as Further Education lecturers are, in fact, in ‘loco parentis’ and some under sixteens may have been in the building. There was lively debate in lessons (not mine) on the use of censorship which also helped me to feel better and, eventually, we did have a good laugh.

This will be of little consolation to the nurse’s children and her immediate family but surely this tragedy could have been prevented. At the time I heard about the hoax on the news,I immediately thought about what the person who took the call may have been going through. Management should never underestimate what someone is suffering when they have made such a public mistake.

Humour should never be at another person’s expense. I can think of no printable description for the Australian hoaxers but perhaps this will be a lesson to others who think such a prank is ‘funny’.

A Street Cat Named Bob

A few weeks ago I caught the tail end of a section of The One Show where a ginger cat sat on the sofa while his adopted owner answered questions from Matt Baker and Alex Jones about how the feline creature had become such an integral part of his life.

In March this year, I had taken ownership of a female ginger cat who was not co-habiting too peaceably with my grandchild. There were various other reasons why Marmalade was adopted by us but many of her previous misdemeanours have yet to be repeated at Chez Castle. My neighbours, knowing we had a ginger cat, left a book outside our door which I picked up with some curiosity. On the front cover was a cat almost identical to our Marmalade. However, his name, Bob, reminded us that he differed from our ginger cat only in terms of gender.

The book documents the paths of a vulnerable ex addict and a homeless ginger tom. From the moment I picked it up I was captivated by this heart-warming tale of hope which also introduced me to aspects of living on the streets of which I was totally unaware.
James Bowen is the young man who has fallen on hard times since his arrival in the UK from Australia hampered by fractured family links and a relationship which also seems to have fallen on hard times. I was delighted to read further into the book that Bob’s debut into the life of James also indirectly allowed the dying relationship to rekindle itself until girlfriend Belle becomes a staunch friend and even provides a home to Bob when James disappears to Australia to revive lost contact with his mother. The book is told by James with the help of Garry Jenkins and his writing skills.

How Bob endears himself to everyone he meets while out with James makes the book delightful but the longest journey is that taken by James who, aware of his new responsibility as a pet owner, begins to turn his life around. At first Bob is left at home while James goes into central London to earn money busking. When it becomes clear that Bob wants to be a part of this life, the cat accompanies him, usually perched on his shoulders but otherwise tethered by a long shoe lace. It soon becomes clear to James that he earns more money when Bob is with him and this brings problems aroused by the jealousy of others who are working the streets.
For the reader, there is a wonderful insight into life on the streets and the coping skills of those who have very little material wealth and unfortunate backgrounds. James frequently uses the internet free on local library computers, becoming adept with Information Technology despite only being capable of a hand-to-mouth existence in everyday life. He is resourceful when it comes to getting free or low cost vetinerary help for Bob. The day that Bob has a microchip inserted, James is asked if he is Bob’s owner and affirming this he recognises the importance of the role which was thrust upon him.
After returning from a visit to Australia where his estranged mother and he have established more than superficial contact, he is well rested and has put on some weight. He is now determined to come off the drugs programme completely and, after suffering withdrawal symptoms, he makes the transition from the methadone treatment and sets himself the target to get paid work. He has been a Big Issue seller in the past and so he re-establishes contact with those managing the distribution in the London area. Again Bob is a magnet especially where tourists are concerned. James is frequently posing for photographs and is aware that some video is being taken but naively he fails to realise that this is all being published on the internet. Tourists are already bringing Bob tins of cat food and actively seeking him out but it isn’t until he hears some Japanese tourists saying ‘This is Bob, the Big Issue cat’ that he realises Bob’s fame is worldwide.

There are many touching moments in the book and times when my heart raced as Bob does have some unfortunate experiences on the streets with James but somehow even when his owner is rushing around panic-stricken, we have the feeling that all will be right in the end, especially if we had already seen them appear on the One Show.

This book should be on every cat lover’s Christmas list but, regardless of your feelings for cats, it will appeal to all. I wish James good luck as he continues to turn his life around. Hopefully becoming a published author (even with a ghost writer) has already set him on a path to increased happiness and wealth.

Read the latest news and stories from James and Bob at and at Bob’s very own Twitter site @streetcatbob