Bunny and the dungarees

bunny-dungarees

I wish I had a photograph to illustrate this little tale. My childhood soft toys lived with me until I was about 40 years old (then they went to the dump toy heaven). I was particularly fond of Bunny who was given to me by my aunt Gretta. It must have been very expensive, plush white fur bunny with pink silk lined ears and the topper was that she was wearing blue striped dungarees! Bunny even held a little plastic bouquet of carrots. The stuffing seemed to be like fine sawdust and over the years it went down to her feet. Every so often I would give her a really good shake to distribute her stuffing properly.

I married young and the toys came to bed with us. My husband (aka Teddy) bought me endless new soft toys and his first gift to me was a human sized stuffed Panda as a late 21st birthday present. Then we got cats, so the poor old toys had to sit in Nana’s rocking chair. During the ’80s we lived in an old bank in the North of Scotland and the proportions weren’t quite right for a regular house. The upstairs hallway was as big as a bedroom with a huge window. I loved to see Bunny, Teddy (the toy) and all the others basking in the sunshine as I went up the stairs.

Bear in mind, I was in my ’20s so my hormones were raging with really bad PMT AND a mental illness… The first batch of cats was young and very, very naughty. They chased each other up and down those stairs like fairy elephants and also loved to bask in the sunshine. One day they had just pushed me to my limit – fighting and playing noisily all day, throwing up on the stairs, a stray poop on the carpet and general mayhem.

It must have been close to dinner time and I went upstairs only to see the upstairs hallway in disarray. Worst of all, poor Bunny had been taken off the rocking chair and somehow those bad cats had taken off her dungarees. Teddy (the husband) came home to find me sobbing inconsolably holding my poor naked Bunny in my arms. Through choking sobs, I said, “They took Bunny’s dungarees off”. He looked perplexed and said, “Who did it?” “Those bad cats!” was my snot filled response. I could see so many emotions passing over his face. “WTF?” “Oh Lord, she has her period!” “The cats??” He was struggling so hard not to laugh while kneeling down comforting me.

We both ended up laughing, of course. Bunny had her stuffing redistributed and the dungarees put back on. Order was restored to the upstairs hallway and the cats were forgiven…eventually.

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Toffee – our baby cat

Toffee on the mantel

Aaawww – that cute little face. She doesn’t look like she has the capacity to reduce you to a whimpering wreck, does she? Not a day goes by when she doesn’t whine, beg, look at you as though you torture her and then cuddle me obsessively. It must be my fault but I don’t know how it happened.

Toffee, aka Toffee Tiddles or Baby girl, is our baby. She is going to be 13 this spring but is still our baby and behaves like it. We were introduced to Toffee when she was about 6 weeks old, so she has known us forever. At some point, before she was a year old, something traumatic happened to her. We have no idea what it was but it changed her personality. She was injured but was too upset for us to take her to the vet in Egypt. Our gardener found her and kept her in his room. We would like to think that she fell off the balcony but we think that a human did something bad to her, perhaps unintentionally. Most Egyptians love cats so it is hard to imagine that anyone deliberately did anything bad but they may have shooed her into the path of a car, perhaps.

I watched her mother, Mrs. Stripe, play with Toffee and her sibling Treacle (coal black), for hours in the garden. The play was really a lesson in how to hunt and it was usually mom’s tail. As they grew older, the siblings would play fight with each other but as feral kittens didn’t utter a sound. It was the weirdest experience to watch them hurt each other and squeak silently! Toffee was the dominant kitten and came into the house soonest. She loved to chase balls around the house and kick-started by putting her back legs up the wall. Those little paw marks on white-washed walls were so difficult to remove. Although her mum was not a hunter, more a scavenger, Toffee has a natural hunting ability and is literally addicted to lizards. They have some LSD type substance on their skin. Over the years I have rescued hundreds of lizards including a big black one that bit me!!

Her first proper toy was a handmade tartan teddy knitted by an American expat. It was a few inches long and she carried it everywhere. It was hard to get either toys or cat food in Egypt but we managed with ping-pong balls. Her absolute favorite was a toy that I bought for myself. This was another hand-knitted doll who was a genial witch, dressed in a purple outfit and a knitted broomstick. It was Halloween and I was just so delighted to find something so cute. Toffee took one look at it and ran off with Nanny Ogg in her mouth – it was as big as she was!

When we finally managed to get her to the vet for vaccinations and neutering, she was the worst patient ever – even worse than Zhenny… Our veterinarian had an assistant that looked like an Egyptian Lurch. His size and temperament calmed/scared most animals but not Toffee. She totally trashed Dr. Farouk’s office – she escaped from Lurch/Mohammed’s grasp, ran around like a mini tornado, breaking everything as she went. We finally found her inside one of his desk drawers. It was the only time I saw Dr. Farouk close to losing his cool. He wanted to know why we were looking after a wild animal but by that time, she was injured and we had no choice. She has rarely visited any vet in her 12⅔rd years and we hope she just drops dead someday. Apart from us adoring our little baby, she is has been a fabulous intermediary between Zhenny and Mrs. Stripe who both consider themselves alpha females. Toffee will play with them both, particularly Zhenny who she treats as a sibling.

She didn’t find her voice for years but now has a really loud, annoying squeak. I will put up with it for ages and then speak to her in Arabic. She puts her tail between her legs and then runs under the bed. Sigh. Then I have to go persuade her than Mummy is not an ogre (she should have met her Grandma) and please come out for some organic chicken. By now you should realize who the problem is…

Toffee with Mummy in Egypt

Toffee with Mummy in Egypt

Liebster Award

liebster5A big thank you to Lisa, Life of an El Paso Woman who nominated me for a Liebster Award. I was going to say this is a No Award site but the Grinch has left my soul after a lovely day working on Christmas Day and I will accept with gracious appreciation.

The rules are: 1. Say thank you to the person who nominated you. 2.Pick 5 people to nominate 3. Ask 5 questions. 4. Post the pic in the post.

These are Lisa’s 10 questions –

1. What’s your favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving. Everyone can celebrate it, no one needs to fight about what they should call the holiday (yes, it’s a happy holiday :)). There are no presents and most of us have something to be thankful about.

2. What is your favorite thing to cook or bake?
Nothing at all. Does salad out of a packet count with bottled dressing?

3. What’s the best thing about the city where you live?
My city is built in an indigenous forest. There are critters everywhere. We had the infra red camera out on Christmas and counted Betsy Sue the Possum and her two kids, Louanne and Chuck, two Woodrats, Willie and Winnie, the Raccoon twins, Rocky and Robbie, KATNISS, our feral cat who came back for Christmas. We think that Betsy Sue’s ‘husband’ was there too – Travis?

4. What are some of your favorite movies?
The Wizard of Oz and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. How is that for a contrast but they both have a moral tale…

5. What was one of the hardest thing you’ve ever done in life so far?
Move to Egypt and stay there after the Gulf War started.

6. Who are you the closest with in your family?
Does my husband count? If not, probably my dead mother, I see her in the mirror every day and somehow her words come out of my mouth in an involuntary manner. “Do you want a smack?”

7. Why did you start blogging?
To make me finish and publish my book. Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan

8. Is the glass half empty or half full?
Mostly half full but I am happily medicated…

9. Are you a Star Wars fan?
Of course! Can’t you see my uncanny resemblance to Princess Leia? You should see me in a gold bikini and chains…

10. What was your favorite toy growing up?
BEBE! The doll that Daddy sent me

Now I nominate five people and give them five questions to answer.  I nominate –

A Vegan in Las Vegas
Tomorrow Definitely
The Ardross-man
Weird Guy With The Dog
New England Nomad

Here are my questions –
1. Who was your first TV/Film hero or crush?
2. What other place in the world do you think you could live in?
3. What would you like engraved on your tombstone or written on your obituary?
4. What food to you hate to eat?
5. Star Wars or Star Trek?

Bebe, the doll from Daddy

Surely little Kerry couldn't be naughty?

Surely little Kerry couldn’t be naughty?

It’s time to lighten the mood, eh? The baby doll that my charismatic father sent me was called Bebe by me because I couldn’t pronounce Baby. Don’t laugh but I had some trouble with language as a child. It took me a while to speak – I would point at things that I wanted and just say, ‘mmmm’ very adamantly. My Nana and mum were very worried about this and tried everything to get me to speak properly. I was also unable to say my own name and I was Keggy for a while. Then…apparently I came out with a sentence and never stopped.

Bebe was the bane of my mum’s life. It was incredibly lifelike and quite heavy. I would insist that I would be able to carry Bebe for the whole trip and then start sobbing about how heavy she was. My mum would exasperatedly take Bebe and on one funny occasion shoved her under arm like a sack of potatoes. A lady on the bus started tutting and telling my mum that was no way to hold a baby – I got the death stare…

Despite the angst of the arrival of the doll both my Nana and Mum adored her. They knitted and crocheted delicate layettes of clothes for her – perhaps it was a way of recreating how my birth and arrival could have been? I cared for Bebe too but was obsessed with stripping all my dolls naked and shoving them in the closet. This incensed my loving care-givers for some reason – it’s just a doll!!!

I had another slightly more worrying habit that meant that I was only allowed plastic scissors until I was at high school. SCISSORS – I love them! My first felony was to steal the dressmaking shears and create a doll’s outfit out of my mother’s last glamorous negligee from the States. The criminal activity continued and I particularly loved cutting my doll’s hair. They tried to address this by getting me a Tressie doll (it had extending hair) and a Clairol doll sent from New York. None of it worked.

One day I was sitting on the stairs with Bebe and a pair of scissors in my hand. I just couldn’t control the urge – Kerry Scissor Hands. I snipped her beautiful blonde hair into a punk mess and it felt so cathartic until it didn’t… ‘What had I done’, I thought ‘and what do I do with the evidence?’ In my panic I thought the sensible action was to run up the stairs, open the bedroom window and throw the hair out. My Nana, unfortunately, was hanging out the sheets when she was showered with Bebe hair…

Well, I will leave it to your imagination what happened next. Let’s just say that I was treated like one of the torturers at Abu Graib – castigated from society, all scissors taken out of my reach and was convinced I would go to toy hell. Heck, this has given me such a laugh. RIP Bebe.

My Charismatic Father

My father as a beautiful boy

My father on the right as a beautiful boy

As I have been browsing other bloggers posts, I have noticed some lovely memorials to fathers who have passed on. It struck me that although my Dad died in 1990, I have no similar memories. He disappeared from my life when I was about 2 years old and, to all intents and purposes, abandoned us in Glasgow at my Grandmother’s home. Not only that, he ‘borrowed’ money from my mum’s family, never to be repaid.

My mum was a very complicated person with a mental illness and alcohol problem. When I was younger she invariably tried to boost the image of my Dad – told me how handsome, talented, clever and creative he was. I was aware that the rest of her family did not share that opinion. Then, one wonderful day, a giant package arrived from the States. Usually the parcels at Christmas were from my two single maternal aunts and one relative of my father. This one was from my father and it was full of a strange mixture of toys including a pink Cadillac, a fire engine and a large baby doll. I was so excited to receive something from this elusive father. I wasn’t quite old enough to figure out why my mum was conflicted about the parcel – we never did receive any alimony.

As the years passed, a clearer picture of my father emerged. He was a deeply flawed but utterly charismatic man who may well have had mental health issues – certainly he was an alcoholic. In one awful drunken revelation, my mum wailed at me that my Dad had wanted her to get an illegal abortion in 1959. I can still remember how devastating that was to me – not only was I an unwanted burden to my mother but my father probably only married my mother because of my existence. To make things worse I also knew that my father’s cousin, my aunt Jackie, wanted to adopt me because of the circumstances of my birth. How I longed that she had.

Time moved on, I had inherited not just a damaged psyche but a genetic mental illness. I married very young and when I was around 30 found out that we could not have children. That must have triggered something in my head and I asked my mum if she would be upset if I tried to trace my Dad but she was surprisingly keen. Long story short, I found him and he was happy to have reconnected. In essence, I had never met him and was struck by how sexy and alluring his voice was. It resonated beautifully.

There is no happy ending. Eventually, I couldn’t stand to even speak to him after many drunken calls in the middle of the night. He died in desperately sad circumstances, alone, and I am just sad that I don’t have a wonderful Dad to pay tribute to. The one person, who knew him intimately and did not dislike him, told me that I inherited his charisma. I have been told that I have a sexy and alluring voice, too.

I have written some more about him in my Kindle Book –
Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan

PS. After I wrote this I looked at my avatar and my Dad as a child and realized our faces are identical.

Christmas Cats

cats santaaction cats 2014 These are our three Egyptian street cats that we rescued from Cairo between 2002 and 2004. We had no intention of bringing any animals to our next posting which turned out to be Houston but they were impossible to rehome and we had bonded. Mrs. Stripe was first, the mama of Toffee who was next and finally Zhenny who I brought home to die from the cat shelter. Truly feral cats like these normally only live a few years in the wild but their ages range from 11 to 13. That means they are both geriatric and amazing. We struggled to adapt to looking after the equivalent of wild raccoons that would hiss, spit and bite at the first opportunity but they all had injuries or illnesses. On one memorable occasion in 2003, the Sudanese manager of the cat shelter, my husband and I were trying to capture Mrs. Stripe who was trapped in our bedroom with a sore paw. I swear that she was running across the ceiling a la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. We gave up in defeat, me sobbing and she disappeared off into the garden. The next day she came back, her paw healed with the adrenaline, and two little kittens. I could hear her saying, “This is why I couldn’t go to the vet”. Just before we immigrated here in 2004, all three were neutered, vaccinated and ready to go. It was a horribly traumatic time trying to get three wild animals in cages but when we got to Houston via KLM, they were sitting waiting for us. We asked my husband’s company to provide a truck because the cages were so big but they sent a Limo driver with a peaked hat and a stretch limousine. I will never forget the look of delight on their faces when they were put in the limo with their new mum and dad. Click on this video link to see them having fun today on Christmas Day 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UcF4G3KJWk