Saturday, 6 August 2016

My friend Charlie (by Oliver the Cat)

(This post has been translated from Cat by Sheila Norton)

Hello, all my human friends. I hope you remember me - Oliver the Cat. I live in the pub in Little Broomford with my human, George. If you've read my story 'Oliver the Cat Who Saved Christmas', you might remember that after my very exciting year when I saved Christmas for the humans in my village, I found myself a new little friend. His name is Charlie and he lives with one of my favourite families in the village - Julian and Laura and their human kitten, Caroline.


When I first met Charlie he was a tiny little kitten, hardly big enough to get out of his bed without falling over. His father, Tabby, is a very good friend of mine but I knew he wasn't the kind of cat who would help Charlie as he grew up, giving him the sort of advice about the bewildering human world that little kittens need and deserve. But I loved little Charlie and wanted to do my best for him, so I kind of took him under my paw, spending time meowing with him and teaching him everything he needed to know. 

As Charlie began to grow up I soon realised he was a little cat with a lot of spark and personality. He could be a bit cheeky, but I overlooked that, guessing that he'd grow out of it as he matured and settled down. After a while he sometimes became frustrated by me continuing to treat him as a little kitten - even though, as far as I was concerned, that was what he still was. To be honest, I think I'd always have referred to him as 'Little Kitten' if it hadn't been for what happened last summer.

Everything changed for Charlie then, and I can definitely say that after it all, he wasn't a Little Kitten anymore - he was a very special cat, who ended up saving the life of the human he loved most in the whole world - his half-grown human kitten, Caroline. I have to admit that even I, with all my years of experience of the human world, have never been through the kind of trauma that Charlie endured during that time. But somehow, despite it all, he's still the same loveable Charlie he always was. I'm a very proud cat to count myself as his friend, and I hope you will all enjoy reading his amazing and exciting story.

'Charlie the Kitten Who Saved a Life'

With lots of love and purrs -   
                                       Oliver x                                                                                                                                                                   

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Currently Catless. (But maybe not forever?)

With my second ‘cat’ story soon to be published, I’ve been asked by several people whether I’ve got a cat myself. It’s a fair question. Some might wonder how someone who doesn’t have their own cat can possibly know enough about them to write this kind of book – especially as my stories are told from the cat’s point of view!

Those of you who’ve read previous posts on here will know the answer. I’ve been privileged to share my life with three cats in the past, but no, sadly at the moment we are a catless household. Our last cat passed away four years ago at the ripe old age of 15. He was a chocolate Burmese called Charlie, a real little character and yes, I thought of him often when writing my new book Charlie, the Kitten who Saved a Life, but my fictional Charlie is a young tabby, despite sharing a few of our own Charlie’s cheeky characteristics!

Life is hard for a cat author!

We lost our previous two cats in traumatic circumstances. Misty, our lovely Devon Rex, died in a road accident outside our house. And Oscar, Charlie’s brother, a lilac Burmese, went missing along with Charlie after we moved house. Both boys were microchipped and we eventually got Charlie back after two weeks’ absence but never saw Oscar again. So the fact that Charlie survived into old age, eventually dying in his sleep at the cattery while we were on holiday in Australia, was of some comfort by comparison. But still, of course, the end of the human-pet relationship is always tough. We’ve had two dogs during our time, as well as the three cats, and it’s never easy to lose them, no matter what age or what the circumstances. As well as our own shock and grief at learning about Charlie’s demise when we came home from holiday, we felt bad for our family who coped with the news and kept it quiet from us while we were away, and bad for the cattery staff, especially the girl who’d found him.
Our grandson as a baby, with our Charlie cat

So, over the years I learned a lot about cats’ behaviour, and their interaction with us humans. In fact, I’m currently writing a series on my Facebook author page ( which I’m calling Charlie’s A-Z of Humans, describing what Charlie the Kitten might think about us!  Luckily I also still have ‘access’ to a few cats – not least those belonging to two of my daughters and their families: lucky black cat Freddie, and black and white kittens Winnie and Wilbur.

Winnie and Wilbur

But for now, we’re remaining catless – and dogless too, for that matter. Why? Well, now we’re both retired from the day jobs, like a lot of retirees we’re doing a fair bit of travelling and holidaying before we become too aged and decrepit to do so. Most of us ‘oldies’ rarely, if ever, went any further than their nearest bit of British coast when we were younger. (I remember once, as a schoolgirl, getting a postcard from a friend who was in Cornwall with her family, and being absolutely amazed that anyone went so far away for their holidays). In a way, I wish we’d been able to get the ‘travel bug’ out of our systems at a younger and fitter age, but it wasn’t within our means so we’re trying to make up for lost time now. And we don’t want to start a new relationship with a furry companion, only to end up putting him or her into a cattery all the time. The fact that we weren’t there with Charlie at the end of his life has influenced this decision a little, but it’s not just that. When I do get another cat, I want to spend as much time as possible enjoying him.

So is that a ‘yes’ for a future four-legged newcomer to the Norton household? Let’s just say I find it very hard to close the local paper after looking at the pages from the Cats’ Protection League showing pictures of cats needing loving homes. And yes, I’m one of the many who drool over cute kitten pics on Facebook. So I’m certainly not ruling it out. I’d be quite happy to end up as a mad old cat lady!

Meanwhile I’m happy to have, at least, written another book narrated by a cat. Charlie, the Kitten Who Saved a Life, a sequel to Oliver, the Cat Who Saved Christmas, will be published by Ebury on 11 August 2016, in paperback and ebook editions. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon, where you can already pre-order:

Charlie hopes you will enjoy his story!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Is your man doing too much for you?!?

Anyone who knows me well will probably think the title of this post must be a joke. A man doing too much for me? Am I joking?! Well, bear with me ... because it's not a joke, and in fact I think it's quite important that some of us women start thinking seriously about this, sooner rather than later.

I've said some of us, because I'm sure there are plenty of women to whom none of this will apply. Those who aren't in any sort of marriage or partnership with a man, for a start. Possibly most younger women - (although read on anyway, because I'm willing to bet some of it will still apply to you). Those whose partner is less able, for whatever reason, to take care of things than the woman is. Those who are just very strong, independent women who do absolutely everything for themselves. And if you're nodding enthusiastically now, confident that this last category includes you - good for you. I thought it included me, too, but recently I've been taking a more honest look at what goes on in our house and yes, I have to say: he's started doing too much for me. And I don't think I like it.

What? I hear you cry. What is he, some kind of super-husband who vacuums the mattresses and irons the curtains? Does he cook our meals, do the weekly shop, put on the washing and clean the toilet? Well, no, obviously not. He doesn't do any of those things, and that's partly my own fault because I'm so used to doing them myself, and I carry on doing so, out of habit. So I'm lucky if he just slices the occasional mushroom, under my guidance, and makes me a cup of tea once in a while. But the point is this: if I weren't here, he'd be able to do all those things, no problem. Or not too much problem, anyway. How long would it take him to learn how to twiddle the right dials on the washing machine, or how to put a pie in the oven rather than try to grill it (as he once did when I was away)? I know he can iron. He can hoover. He'd soon learn how to clean the loo and find out where I keep the clean bed linen.

No-one can honestly say they enjoy housework, can they?
Yes, like a lot of women, especially of my generation, the household chores were always mostly my responsibility, and oh boy, over the years, especially when I was working, I admit I've done my share of moaning about that. But since we both retired - he from running his own business, I from my day job but not of course from my writing career, we've kind of shared them - as is only right, in the circumstances. Well, OK, to be more accurate, I still do most of them but he helps a bit more. So why the hell, you must be wondering, am I now saying I think he does too much for me?

I don't just mean that he does the gardening, and the DIY - although yes, he does. I used to get far more involved in both of those than I do now. I was pretty good at wallpapering, although I say so myself, and I regularly mowed the lawn in a long garden we used to have, with an ancient push-mower. Now, though - well, he's a lot stronger than me. And he has more time, too, these days, that's my excuse - I have book contracts, with deadlines, I can't be expected to wield lawnmowers and paintbrushes for God's sake! But if he weren't here, I'd have to take up the brush again, fair enough. Or pay someone to do all that stuff. Or move to a house with a smaller garden!

If someone gets satisfaction from doing a job, far be it from me to take it over from them!
No, it's not those things that concern me. It's that since we've been retired, there's been a gradual creeping takeover of the other things I used to do myself. Booking holidays. Arranging things like boiler service, household appliance repairs and services, looking on-line for new things we need for the home. Comparing deals with utility companies, insurance companies - even sorting the car insurance for my own car. These days I don't know how to deal with simple problems with our boiler or television because he sorts them out. When I realised recently that I don't even know where he - yes, he - gets the replacement filters for our Hoover, it finally occurred to me that this has gone too far. I'm losing control, and it worries me. If he suddenly disappeared, I'd have trouble sorting out those of our financial arrangements that he controls, because ... he's been quietly doing it on his own. Don't get me wrong - I'm grateful! I like not having to organise my own car insurance, for example, because let's face it, it's a boring job and I'd rather write the next chapter of my new novel. But at the same time, it leaves me feeling vaguely uneasy.

I've discussed this recently with some of my female friends who are of a similar age to me - and have been shocked to hear that some have relinquished even more than I have to their men's control. Some don't know where their husbands keep important papers. One has never put petrol in her own car. One or two don't even know how to access their joint bank account on line, don't pay their own credit card bills, don't even access email, believe it or not. All of these things seem quite incredible to me and fill me with horror, but am I, God forbid, headed in the same direction?

Household accounts - definitely not my favourite thing, but of course I'd do them if I had to ... wouldn't I?
And if you're a woman in her thirties or forties reading this, and thinking smugly that this kind of (how I hate the word) dependence, only happens to us, the older generation, and will never happen to you, think again. Because I really do admire the way you run your careers as well as your homes and your children's lives, and the way your men cook, clean, change nappies and come home early for school open evenings. But even so, I've heard some of you making those joking references to blue jobs and pink jobs, referring for instance to taking out the bins or getting the children's tea, as if we were still living in the pre-gender-equality years of my youth. Yes, I realise you're just joking about it - for now. But please don't be too confident that it'll always feel like a joke. Before you know it, he'll be buying the Hoover filters and you won't have a clue where to get them from!

OK, it's not the end of the world, is it, if someone loves you enough to insure your car for you. But I actually do think there's a serious side to all this. If any of us - young or old, male or female - can say we're not sure how we would manage certain aspects of our lives if our other half wasn't there to do it for us, then we're potentially setting ourselves up with a problem for the future. Or, perhaps worse, potentially setting up a worry for our children because one day we might not be able to cope on our own. And as a mum who hates her daughters being worried, that's an unacceptable scenario for me. So I think I need to get a grip on those Hoover filters - and a few other things too - before I finish that novel. Take a look at what your man's doing for you, ladies, and be honest with yourselves. In some ways, we all know it'll never be enough! But on the other hand - is it actually too much?