Introducing Compost Cat

When we first moved into our new nest, about this time last year, we spotted a cat asleep in our compost heap. The previous tenant had told us about a cat she used to feed, who used to sneak in the house if she left the windows or back door open, so we thought that this might be that kitty. She even left cat food and bowls behind.

Whenever we went out into the garden though, the cat - who we began to refer to as Compost Cat - would shoot off over the fence like we were out to get him. Slowly, over the months, the cat moved closer to our house but would still run away if we ventured into our garden.

I don't know how it happened, but just before Christmas we decided to feed Compost Cat the food that the previous tenant had left behind. Slowly we moved the bowl closer and closer to the house until, lo and behold, the bowl was by the kitchen door.

January rolled around with the occasional visit from Compost Cat - we could stroke him once or twice, but nothing more - and, before we knew it, January had turned into March and we had to buy more cat food.

We started to wonder about Comps (or Compy) - it's slightly ridiculous referring to a cat as Compost Cat - and whether he did have a home. No collar, a very scrawny appearance, and a constantly hungry tummy suggested that he didn't.

One random Wednesday evening in March, Comps was sat inside with us, purring on the rug. Running through to the kitchen he emerged a few minutes later with a mouse in his mouth. Yikes! Firstly, the shock that we have mice? Secondly, what is the cat going to do with said mouse?

Comps chomped it down, proudly deposited the tail on the rug, and then returned to the kitchen. Ten minutes later, the same thing happened, except this time round Comps let the mouse go and played with it a bit before he devoured it. (Gross.) That was the first night that we let Compost Cat stay in with us, and he didn't really leave us for the next few weeks. Slowly we began to build up his weight, and he became more trusting of us.

Easter rolled around and next door went away on holiday. We had suspected originally that he might be theirs, but when no one came over to feed him whilst they were away, we decided that enough was enough: Compy must be a stray, and so we decided to make him ours. We bought him a cosy cat cave (ignore the face - he loves it really), a scratching post (prefers scratching the coffee table) and sorted out flea and worming treatments.

When we came back from Barcelona, Comps was thrilled to see us. So much so that his noise caught the attention of next door who called over the fence to us. Yes, you've guessed it, Comps was their cat and he's actually a she. Her name was Queenie, and they had rescued her from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

Now, the keen-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I said "Comps was their cat", rather than is. It baffles me how you can go to the trouble of rescuing a cat from Battersea and then just give her away like they did. I was always led to believe that Battersea carefully vet potential owners so that their cats (and dogs) go to a suitable home, but it seems that Comps was unlucky. 

We had been discussing for the past six months about getting a cat, ruling it out (for now) because we want to live abroad for a year or two... A cat has chosen us, regardless of these plans, but knowing that she was half-starved "living" next door and hated by their children meant that we couldn't turn our backs on her when they offered her to us.

She's a much healthier and happier cat now. She might not be jumping on our knees for cuddles - one of the reasons their children didn't like her, which is just plain ridiculous - but she doesn't stop purring and showing her affection. It's just affection in a less obvious way.

Welcome to the family Compost Cat! We hope you'll be very happy with us, and please feel free to catch all the mice you want if they return! x

Barcelona: Tibidabo

Tibidabo is the highest point in Barcelona, so you're in for a spectacular view of the city if you make it to the top! Two landmarks that stand out are Templo Expiatorio del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (Expiatory Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) and the Torre de Collserola, Barcelona's TV tower.

Most people think of Gaudí and his Sagrada Família when it comes to Catholic churches in Barcelona, but you shouldn't overlook this church which is impressive in its own right.

There's also the Tibidabo amusement park, full of quaint rides such as a colourful big wheel and the obligatory carousel.

And then, of course, there's the view of Barcelona whilst you're up there. Utterly breath-taking. x

Barcelona: Plaça d'Espanya and Montjuïc

Plaça d'Espanya and Montjuïc were the first bits of Barcelona we headed to after dropping off our things at the hotel. We'd been told about the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, a spectacular light and music performance, and after checking the internet realised we had to see it on Saturday evening or not at all.

When we got there at half past six we double-checked the schedule on the wall - Fridays and Saturdays, every 30 minutes between 7pm and 9pm - and secured a place on the grass to enjoy the gorgeous evening sunshine. 7pm came and the water in the fountain was switched off... nothing happened. 7.30pm... nothing happened. 8pm... still nothing. 

At this point we decided to head off and grab dinner, giving it up as a missed opportunity. We headed to local spot L'antica Napoli, which is about a ten minute walk from the fountain, where they served up some awesome heart-shaped pizzas. We had lovely service and an enjoyable meal so I would highly recommend it if you are in the area and in the mood for pizza.

(Since returning to the UK the website for the fountain has been updated, listing the first show starting at 9pm, with additional shows on Thursday and Sunday during the summer. If you're in the area and want to see the show, check the website, then check again!)

Fountain aside, there are some gorgeous buildings in this area. The Palau Nacional in front of the fountain was built for the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona, and it's now the National Art Museum of Catalonia. It's very impressive looking.

Back towards the Plaça d'Espanya you'll find one of the main shopping districts of Barcelona. This is more a "local" district and isn't as fancy as the shops on Passeig de Gràcia - if you fancy a shopping spree without breaking the bank, this is where you need to be.

Carrer de la Creu Coberta is one of the streets off Plaça d'Espanya and on it you'll find Portonovo Silvestre, another restaurant frequented by locals. It may look a bit basic from the outside, but they do excellent tapas here - hearty portion sizes and delicious food at a reasonable price. What more could you ask for?

Until next time! x

Barcelona: Gaudí

If you visit Barcelona, you're going to hear the name Gaudí a lot - he's their favourite person, though he was actually from Reus - and his stamp is all over the city. From buildings to lampposts - the lampposts in Plaça Reial were his first commission as a graduate in 1878 - you won't walk too far before you spot a piece of work designed or influenced by him.

The interiors of his masterpieces are just as stunning as the outside I've read. With so much to fit in we only got chance to admire the exteriors, but we'll definitely be back to Barcelona to explore further one day! I'd recommend booking your tickets online if you want to see inside any of Gaudí's buildings as you could quite easily be waiting a few hours to get in.

This is Casa Batlló, which Gaudí redesigned in 1904. Locally it's know as the "House of Bones" but I think it deserves a much nicer nickname than that as it's absolutely stunning to look at. I love the mermaid scale look of the roof and the use of colourful ceramics. You'll spot at the top there's also a four-armed cross, which is quite often featured by Gaudí in his designs.

La Pedrera (Casa Milà) is another of Gaudí's designs and is on the same road as Casa Batlló. Sadly it was covered in scaffolding whilst we were in Barcelona, which was quite apt as Gaudí's most famous work is still very much a work-in-progress, with scaffolding and cranes galore!

This, of course, is la Sagrada Família - construction started on it in 1882, and it's hoped that it will be finished sometime within the next fifteen years. Gaudí himself said on the completion date: "My client is in no hurry." I wish we could have spent more time there, and got to see the inside too, but it was far too hot to queue for two hours in the blazing sunshine, and other bits of Barcelona were calling us! (We were silly and didn't book tickets online.)

Palau Güell looks a little more gritty from the outside. It's certainly not as colourful or as splendid as Casa Batlló or la Sagrada Família, but there's a delicate intricacy to it. Again, you can visit inside but it, along with many tourist attractions and restaurants in Barcelona, isn't open on a Monday.

As well as Palau Güell, there's also Park Güell. They were both designed by Gaudí, but don't be fooled by the name in thinking that they are in the same location: Park Güell is about an hour's walk away. If you visit, let me know what you make of it! We'll have to go the next time we visit the city.

Gaudí definitely brings a quirkiness to the city, and I can see why his name is synonymous with Barcelona. What do you think to his designs? x

Memory Lane: Spain

A few weeks ago we hopped on a plane and headed to Barcelona for a long weekend. Now, I've only ever been to mainland Spain once before. As a child I went to L'Estartit one scorching hot summer with my parents and brother. I really do recall it been scorching hot, probably because we drove there from Yorkshire and cars didn't have air con in them in the early nineties - journeys like that tend to leave an impression. I can still, even now, conjure up the smell of a burning hot dashboard, the feeling of grubbiness from been stuck in a vehicle all day, and the magnitude of driving over the Pyrénées and seeing the sheer drop just a step away from my passenger door.

My memories of that holiday are of dryness and dust, of feeling uncomfortable in the heat, but also memories of feeling awed because the place we were staying at had five, yes five!, swimming pools - I think we'd only ever stayed in places with a "big" pool and a children's pool, maybe two adults pool, at a push. Memories of the islands - Ibiza, Majorca, Tenerife - make me think of Fawlty Towers waiters and salesmen trying to pitch timeshares at us. When I think of the Spain I experienced as a child, it's sleepy but commercial, but it's also a little sleazy...

Barcelona, for me, is Spain for grown ups: it's the sophisticated grown up cousin I never had. (Not that I have any cousins, sophisticated or otherwise!) We arrived in Barcelona late - our flight was delayed, which meant that by the time we pulled up at the Hotel Barcelona Princess we were already behind schedule. (Yes, I'm one of those people.) With only 2.5 days to cram in as much as possible (we flew there late Saturday morning and flew back first thing Tuesday morning), I wanted us to see as much of the city as we could. I'll be sharing over the next week what we got up to!

 City view from the hotel

Let the Right One In

The other week I headed to the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue to go and see Let The Right One In, which transferred from the Royal Court to the West End. 

Now, I've previously read the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist so I knew what it was about, though I haven't seen the Swedish film or American remake that they did. It's always interesting to compare how your brain pictures something when reading a book with how someone else translates that to the big screen or stage.

Let the Right One In tells the tale of a teenage boy, Oskar, who befriends a new neighbour, Eli. There's something a bit "off" about Eli though. OK, she's a supernatural creature who lives off blood, though she doesn't like being referred to as "one of those". This is where Oskar comes in. Eli, you see, doesn't like getting blood herself and has a carer, of sorts, to kill for her. He's getting old though, and Eli needs a replacement...

Oskar is a lonely character, bullied at school, and feels that he isn't protected by his parents or teachers. Eli positions her relationship with Oskar perfectly to hook him in, though other interpretations of the story suggest that she has feelings for him and it's genuine love, not mere manipulation going on. I'll let you decide for yourself what it is! 

The Apollo is quite small, as far as London theatres go, which definitely helps in creating an atmosphere - I suspect though that Let the Right One In would have still have an atmosphere in larger venues. This is down to its clever use of the stage and its gruesome special effects. (Too gruesome in parts!) I won't spoil it, but the swimming pool scene was masterfully done, though I found the use of dance in the production slightly odd at times. It made sense for Eli to show her other worldliness, less so for the other characters.

Let the Right One In is bloody, but it's beautiful; it's tender, but it's traumatic. With mesmerising performances - especially from Rebecca Benson and Martin Quinn - Let the Right One In is definitely worth watching on stage. As someone who only ever really frequents the West End to see a musical, this is high praise indeed!

Have you read the book or seen the film(s) of Let the Right One In? Will you be heading to the Apollo to see the stage version? x


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