18 July 2016

A letter from the heart to my darling Jasper

My 21st
Hi everyone, this has been a very difficult post for me to write and has taken a few days to do as it's still very upsetting to me, I hoped to post it last week. I thought it was time to explain an aspect of what has been going on in my life and one of the reasons I've been on a blogging break. I never ever wanted to have to write this post, but sadly I've had to, life can be so harsh and I'm sure to non pet owners I seem completely crazy! So get ready for a letter (essay) to my beautiful bow tied wearing cat, hopefully some laughs and an awful lot of photos.
To my darling Jasper (our lubbly boy),
Last Thursday (the 14th July) marked a year since we had to say goodbye to you. A day I was dreading and one I thought would never come. I knew logically you couldn't last forever, but in my heart I didn't think such a cat full of character and life would be beaten by something so every day as death.
When he decided to sit on my lap for 90 minutes
I'm so sorry we had to say goodbye to you, it was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make, it was for all of us. I hope that when the time came and when you drifted off to sleep you were dreaming about prawns and sardines and laying by the fire. I hope that having us all around you stroking you, kissing you and telling you how much we love you for the hundredth time that day was some comfort to you.
It was so hard to watch your breathing get slower and your eyes glaze over and seeing those horrible yet normal reflexes and breathing noises your body was making for a while. It made it seem like you were still with us, a cruel twist I wasn't expecting. Even though the vet said you wouldn't have felt them it felt like you were clinging on to life and yet we were ending it. Watching my beautiful baby slip away was heartbreaking and still haunts me, but there was no way I wouldn't have been there for you, after all we'd been through so much together I wasn't going to leave you now.
When I realised you were really gone out of our lives the grief was overwhelming, it was so hard to go home without you. I realised I would never be able to look into those beautiful eyes again or hear you purr. What gave me some comfort was that you looked so peaceful in your big fluffy bed, all wrapped up in your blanket and just like you were asleep. Beforehand when we were all giving you cuddles, crying and handing you around, you must have wondered what on earth was going on.
No wonder the printer broke!
It was so difficult on the drive to the vets when you were acting like my furry friend all interested in what was going on outside and being your usual nosey self. We did everything we could for you, but we didn't want to wait to say goodbye to you when there was no Jasper left in you and you were just a shell of yourself. You still obviously had so much zest for life, but your age was catching up with you.
I read a quote online on one of the many sleepless nights that I had worrying about you and questioning whether us keeping you alive was right.

'There will come a day when you have no decision, you must let them go...that is usually one day too late'.
We all loved you so much and didn't want you to suffer at all. I'm so sorry I had to give you pain medication, use needles on your precious body and give you tablets, which even with two teeth you still managed to bite my fingers and give me some impressive looking scars! In my heart it still feels like it was just yesterday that we had to say goodbye and I miss you every single day, we all do. The house hasn't been the same since and feels so empty without you, well you did own it didn't you.
You came into our lives so unexpectedly 9 1/2 years ago and firmly made your mark within a couple of hours. To be honest since you were 15 at the time we thought we would only have you for a couple of years, but oh no not you my furry monkey. You had us wrapped around your paw for 8 1/2 years, having us all at your beck and call and bringing so much delight into our lives, even if you did eat everyone's food. You lived to the ripe old age of 23 1/2 which was 111 in cat years, not bad going for a cat that did zero exercise and had breath so smelly you could probably make someone faint if they got too close. Oh how I miss that smelly breath.
His 1st day
You settled into your new home in 2007 so easily. You came from a household with two adults and three cats (both pretty scatty) to a house where you were the only cat with five adults to become your slaves, so I think you were pretty happy to finally get all the attention. I remember the second day we had you Mummy & I went to Pets at Home to buy you some things for your new home and we came back and you were laying stretched out on the conservatory table like you owned the house. When we told you to get down you just looked at us and swished your tail, you owned this house in less then 24 hours.
Up until the last six months of your life you were still acting like the crafty Jasper we knew and dearly loved. Trying to get food out of everyone, meowing like a donkey, demanding to be groomed several times a day or just sat with, loving raspberries being blown on your stomach, going in the garden walking on Mum's precious flowers and leaving a stinky present there and then running back in the house, scooting around the table on three paws as you were scared of the wind.
There were times when you got a lot better in those months and raised our hopes but things would go downhill again, it was such a roller coaster. I have a blog post in drafts that was '10 things that make me happy' and obviously you were at the top of the list! I wrote it in May & said that you'd been ill, but were back to your normal vibrant self and I was filled with so much hope that things were under control. Just two months later we had to say goodbye, I can't bring myself to delete that damn post that I wrote with you snuggled up to me.
Doing his dinner time laps
Every dinner time you would do laps around the table, trying to get food out of us which you always managed to do. You conned me out of half my breakfast most mornings and some of my lunch when you get your paws on it. I miss you eating my macaroni cheese and licking the bowl that had baked beans or spaghetti in and you having a tomato beard afterwards, as well as your marmite beard that was a regular occurrence. I miss us having to save you custard and your Mummy making you your own piece of Marmite toast to eat.
I miss you taking up all the room wherever you decided to lay and on my bed and you sitting on my legs stopping the blood flow to them as you were so heavy. I was so happy when you were around for my 21st in 2014 and loved eating any food you could get your paws on. I don't think many people can say that at their 21st birthday party their cat is a year and a half older then them!
I miss the way you used to lie in front of the fire with your legs in the air stealing all the heat and how you would run to the fire as soon as you saw the guard being moved. You got so close, we were terrified we were going to set your whiskers on fire with the match. You had the fire on when you wanted no matter what time it was or season, we all had to sit there sweltering in June while you enjoyed it stretched back and relaxed.
In heaven by the fire
I miss how you always used to try and eat off people's plates when one of us ate in the sitting room. As soon as they put them down, you were the King of craftiness and even if you were asleep you'd start moving your nose and your whiskers would start twitching. You'd be right there waiting before any of us had taken our first bite. I miss how you made out you were unable to open a pulled to door and just used to meow and stare at it for ages until someone gave in, yet miraculously when dinner was being cooked, you managed to get out of the room and I miss seeing your paw curved around the door and you slowly sneaking in or out.
I even miss when you used to dribble when you were being groomed and when you used to use the side of my laptop and my iPad cover as your Jasper scratcher. I still have the stains from the dribble on my laptop & can't bring myself to buy a much needed new iPad case as you loved it so much.
I miss your selective arthritis that was bad when you had to go upstairs, but not bad when you could smell food, sadly that arthritis didn't become so selective and became such a problem for you. I hope you liked all the heat pads we put on your legs and massages I would give you to try and ease the pain. You seemed to like them and towards the end it was the only time I would hear you purr, that or if it was prawn time.
Trying to pinch some food-Chorizo!
When your beautiful body was letting you down, my mission in the day was to make you comfortable and try and get you to purr. That's all I wanted, to see the cat I loved so dearly happy. I believed I could get you better, I believed what the vet was saying was just ifs and maybe's, after all to me you weren't just a normal cat you were Jasper, you could beat anything.
But when I saw you not being able to jump up onto the stall to climb on the sofa anymore, or not be able to reach down for your food or just collapse in a heap, it broke my heart.
My first question in the morning to your Daddy a.k.a Chief Slave was 'How's Jasper?'. I said it with knots in my stomach hoping you were ok and had survived the night. I'm sorry you had to put up with our never ending chats before you went to sleep, when I snuggled you all up in your bed and told you how much I loved you. Selfishly I had to do that for myself because I was so scared that I wouldn't get to look into your eyes again. I held my breath every morning when I was awake early (I often was as I'd be worrying about you) when Daddy went downstairs just waiting to hear your meow when he opened the kitchen door. If I didn't hear it straight away I'd get so anxious and then when I finally heard that meow I so desperately miss, the relief was overwhelming.
Eating Custard on his own placemat!
I hope when on the nights you were really bad and I stayed downstairs with you right next to me, checking on you every hour you felt some comfort. I remember the time you got a bug and you weren't eating or drinking and I tried giving you 5ml of water every 20 minutes all night to keep you hydrated, as I knew when a cat got dehydrated they could go downhill so quickly. The vet told me I probably saved your life doing that and you lived 22 months longer, so that loss of sleep and eye bags those few nights you were with me were definitely worth it.
I could see you weren't ready to go yet, there was still a hell of a lot of fight left in you. Afterwards when you were better and yourself again with your donkey style whail back to perfect working order that we were so glad to hear again, you wanted to be with us even more, just sitting with us would make you purr. You'd come into a room and demand us to follow you, while you ran to your mat to be sat next to, be stroked and you'd be so happy.
Owning the fire
The thing is my beautiful sweetheart you weren't just a cat to me or to any of us. You helped me through some of the hardest heart breaking times of my life and your fur was used as a tissue more then Kleenex so many times, it was my comfort blanket. If I had a bad day all I needed was a Jasper cuddle and everything seemed okay.
You made our world brighter with your cunning personality and the funny things you used to do. I miss watching you sleep having a dream and moving your paws about and whiskers. I even miss your loud snoring. I miss your purr that would start before you even got a cuddle or food, because you knew what was coming and the purring for such a long time afterwards. You just wanted to be with us all the time, you would set the pace of the household and we just went with it.
You used to sit on my bed with me while I wrote my articles for Vintage Life or blog posts and I miss my furry ghost writer so dearly. I've only just been able to start blogging again as you were such a huge part of it and was often mentioned. For months I couldn't bring myself to blog or talk to certain people as I was worried they'd ask about you and I just couldn't get the words out, it just hurt too much in my heart, so silly I know.
You made such an incredible impact on my life, I don't know how I would have got through some of the hard days without you by my side, purring away at me making everything I was worried about seem so trivial, as you were made so happy by just the simplest things in life.
Helping me write
You're still the screen saver on my phone and iPad by the way (don't worry they won't change for a long time) and you have left a serious paw print on my broken heart, you have on all of ours.
When I had an Echo done recently to look at my heart, I told my Dr (who probably thinks I'm crazy) they might find a paw print on it. It must have been right deep inside as they didn't see it. We now have a bauble with pictures of you in it that goes right at the top of the tree at Christmas, so the fairy has been fired.
In memory of him
We also have a frame with a picture of you, your bow tie that you so charmingly wore, your paw print and some of your fur and your grooming brush you so dearly loved right next to the fire with your pewter cat casket. We've even put it in front of the fire a couple of times when we've had it on as we know you'd like to be laying there, yeah I know completely crazy.

We are still finding your fur on our clothes and everywhere else around the house and will continue to for a long time. I have so many pictures of you (around 2,000) as you well know, you were a right little poser and some videos of you. I can't bring myself to delete a photo that's blurry or has bad lighting, silly I know. I just wish I took more videos of you when you were healthier.

Head of the table
You gave us so many laughs and continue to as we recall stories of you jumping on the table to eat the Christmas turkey when no one was looking and when you used to scavenge food off of our neighbours and I walked down one of their drives once and you walked up it, just looked at me and carried on walking licking your lips so proudly. We laugh about how crazy it is that you were technically a senior cat (7+) even before the millennium, you 90s child you!

We talk about how you used to sun yourself in the garden, how much you loved the Gazebo, how you walked around the garden with Daddy when he watered the garden and when you used to wait in the driveway every night until everyone was home. We laugh about when we were going away in 2013 you sat in the suitcase meowing and then curled up in it, spending over four hours in it.

Trying to nab some Chinese takeaway
We laugh about when you had been given liver or king prawns the day before and then refused to eat your cat food the next day and just meowed all day standing next to your bowl. The longest you lasted was late afternoon or early evening at the most.

I miss having you in the car with me, as every time I would drive up the drive you would saunter along and walk all the way around the car and meow at the door, so I had to end up opening the door and letting you in.

Trying to test out my baking!
We miss finding you hiding in the downstairs cupboard Jasper Potter and how when we had prawns as part of a meal, no one barely got to eat any as you would con them out of everyone. I miss not being able to leave any food alone even for just a second as you would eat it, including buttercream, you were my chief cake tester. I laugh about when I was carrying you like a baby and went to the fridge to get some Quorn Ham, put several pieces in my mouth to hold as my hands were full and you leapt up and took a massive bite out of them, making them instantly yours.
I miss being able to hold you in my arms like a baby or sitting up in my arms and dancing around the room with you. I miss telling people about my wonderful cat and seeing their shock at how old you are and hearing them laugh as I recalled your crazy antics.
His suitcase protest
I even miss sitting next to you on a two cushion sofa with you having one cushion to yourself and you pushing your legs into me to get more and more room. I miss when all five of us were all in the room & two of us sometimes three had to squash up on one cushion, while you had the other one to yourself. None of us had the heart to move you.
I miss hearing you on the landing in the morning meowing your head off and I miss our during the night snuggles when we used to stay at Grandma's when the parents went away and you slept on my bed and I'd be woken up by these whiskers brushing my face or the stench of your breath and fur in my face.
I miss when I'm anxious or at any emotionally draining appointments and not finding your fur on my clothes and feeling like you're there with me. I miss just walking past you and you doing that little trill you used to do just to say hello and how when everyone went to bed you wanted to be stroked by them all first.
I miss the times when you didn't want to go to bed and I'd put you in bed but somehow you'd escape (so much for not being able to open doors!) and I had to run after you and you'd run onto your mat and demand to be groomed, sometimes it took four escapes to get my feisty 23 year old baby to go to bed.
I miss writing your name in cards to people with a little message from you and trying to draw around your gigantic paw and I miss when you would stay on my bed all day with me, or when I was at college I would come home and you'd still be on my bed, but even more stretched out then you were at 7am when you got on it.
I miss getting your fur in my ring and all over my wool. I haven't been able to do any crochet as my wool is covered in your fur, or FairIsle knitting that you loved watching me do and playing with the balls. The only projects I've been able to start or complete are ones that don't include your fur and that's not many!
Eating his Yo! Sushi!
I miss hearing you coming on the wooden floor when you needed your claws cutting, we used to call you 'Stiletto Fred' and I miss hearing the landing creak and then hearing you come into my room, every time you did I would smile to myself. When I hear creaks on the landing now or downstairs I still automatically think it's you. When I'm in the house by myself I have to have the radio or TV on as every noise makes me think it's you for a second. I miss having you to come home to, even if I've only been out for an hour and I miss when I go to Yo! Sushi bringing you back a takeaway of Salmon home which you loved.
I could go on forever about how many things I miss about you. You had such a cheeky personality and made this house an incredibly happy one with your presence for 8 1/2 years. I will never ever forget you and when I had to say goodbye to you I cried so incredibly hard, it felt like we had lost a human family member and not just a furry one.
Licking Marmite out of the jar!
For weeks my days felt empty as before hand they had become so revolved around caring for you, looking after you and making you as comfortable as I could. I still have days and moments where I cry for you and just want to cuddle my little tiramisu so tight and never let go. I just have to tell myself you're no longer suffering and my little pumpkin, I would never ever want that.
Cuddles in the car
On Thursday we had a meal full of prawns (apart from me, but you would have loved my Quorn chorizo) dedicated to you that you would have loved.
Thank you for being with me through the hardest and most extreme times of my life and helping heal the pain that I couldn't put into words. Thank you for making me smile so wide and laugh so incredibly hard hearing about what you've been up to when I've been out and seeing you being your mischievous self.
Every day I wake up wishing it was all just a terrible nightmare, but sadly it isn't. I no longer have my furry baby snuggled up to me, who refused to grow up and still showed kitten like behaviour and a huge zest for life at such a ripe old age.
Mr Boyfriend, you know the one you use to sit on all the time and wake up if he was staying over, isn't very happy I have more photos of you in my room then him and I will be putting even more of you and me up. I don't actually have any of him in there, so you're winning in the photo contest.
He gave me a vintage locket to put photos of me and him in for our 5th anniversary, but I'm pretty tempted to put ones of me and you in it, which he surprisingly isn't too happy about! He does admit he misses you though, just not your bad breath and you being his wake up call by walking all over him.
I'm sure my heart will heal in time, but Jasper my beautiful boy we will never ever forget you. You've made a mark on our lives that will never be forgotten. The house sure does smell a little better without that awful breath of yours though.
All my eternal love,
Your youngest slave of the pack ie. The one you used to steal loads of Quorn from and use her Tangle Teezer as a grooming brush.
Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to read this, I know it was pretty long! I first properly introduced Jasper on my blog when I was just trying to get it going which you can read here. I know I may seem silly or ungrateful being so upset about a cat who lived until 23 1/2, when people lose their pets at much earlier ages. However, to us he was only 8 1/2 as we didn't have him all his life and he had so much personality,he really was the sixth member of the family, just with paws instead.
I also hope this might be able to help someone who is facing making the agonising decision we had to make. I still read the quote I included to remind myself we did the right thing. I promise my next blog won't be so long!
If you do have a pet please go and cuddle them extra tight, even if it is a snake. Make memories with them, take pictures and videos and try to cherish every single second you have with them, even if they do eat your furniture and scratch your carpet.
Second Hand Rose
Stuffing his face with prawns!

07 July 2016

A celebration of Miss Marilyn Monroe: Contains many gorgeous unseen photos

On the 1st June this year it would have been the gorgeous Marilyn Monroe's 90th birthday, so it wouldn't have just been Queen Lizzie's official birthday we'd have been celebrating last month. Sadly though on the 5th August 1962 Marilyn passed away at the age of just 36. It would have been great to have seen how she aged and see her beauty radiate throughout the years.
The world is still in love with Marilyn, who at the time was one of the most beautiful and fascinating people in Hollywood, but also incredibly fragile. We have her films to pour over and never seen before photos are still being unearthed. There is still so much intrigue into her death and many conspiracy theories, she has become one of history's most enduring stars.
Throughout June, Marilyn's birthday was celebrated in a pop-up photo exhibition at The Showroom Presents in Fulham, so I hope some of you managed to go and see it. It was presented by the Playboy Club London and online gallery ONGallery, where you can still have a look at the photos as the prints are available to buy from £100 to around £5,000, just search for Marilyn.
The show was called 'The Happy Birthday Miss Monroe Collection' and covered 16 years of her life, featuring well known and rarely seen images. Prints ranged from ones taken in 1946, when she was still Norma Jean Baker in LA, photos taken in studios or on set and photos taken by Bert Stern in 1962 which has now become known as "The Last Sitting" taken six weeks before she died.
Bert Stern took around 2,500 photos of her for Vogue over a three day period, which he published in a book called Bert Stern: Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting in 1982 and again in 2000. The photos were fashion ones, portrait and nudes, of which only 20 were ever published, ones which we've become to know Marilyn by. The book included all 2,571 photos and is probably the largest tribute there is to her.
So it's great that some more photos have been released to the public from that shoot. The images include ones that Marilyn didn't like and had drawn a cross through the negative. All these pictures from the last sitting became very poignant just a few weeks later.
There were other images in the show from over 50 photographers including Andy Warhol's pop artist famous technicolor portraits and one of the most iconic photos of Marilyn taken by Frank Worth. It is the photo of Marilyn with her billowing white dress she wore in the 1955 film, The Seven Year Itch. The original picture sold for auction for a record breaking $4.6 million in 2011.
There were rarer images included in the collection, such as one signed by Hugh Hefner, which was a naked shot of Marilyn celebrating her first Playboy Sweetheart of the Month award, which helped launch Playboy's global success. For you ahem serious Marilyn fans sorry to disappoint but I'm not showing that photo, I don't want my blog to become one of those kind of sites that people search for, they'd be pretty disappointed once they see my obsession with vintage fashion and love of Rock Hudson.
As well as celebrating Marilyn (even though I'm over five weeks late) I just want to take this chance to pay tribute to the beautiful Caroline Aherne who died last Saturday. For those of you who don't know who she is or are in a different country she was one of the greatest comedy writers, performers and actresses in the UK.
Even though I knew Caroline was battling cancer for the third time in her life (she was even born with cancer), it came as a complete shock that we lost such a majestic talent at just 52 years old. Including Victoria Wood we've lost two wonderful comediennes to cancer in just a few short months, who should still have been with us for decades to come.
I'm a little too young to remember her in the Mrs Merton Show (thankfully I've been able to watch it on YouTube this week), I loved seeing Caroline in repeats of The Fast Show and especially adored her in The Royle Family which changed comedy formats forever. Who would have thought a family sitting around the TV just talking about general life would be so hilarious and win several BAFTA Awards.
Courtesy of bbc.co.uk
I've watched interviews with her and after having such hardships in life and so many of them, she radiated so much strength and humour. I'm so sad there won't be anymore of The Royle Family to indulge over, but thankfully there are three series and several specials we can reminisce in. Also the interviews her and Craig Cash her writing partner who also played Dave did for the documentary 'The Royle Family: Behind the Sofa' are just brilliant, it's lovely to see the rapour they had.
I think the whole nation, especially fans of The Royle Family should all raise a plate of Dairylea on toast to her. Caroline, you really will be sorely missed. I hope you, Victoria Wood, Ronnie Corbett, Terry Wogan, Alan Rickman and Harper Lee are having a hell of a party up there dancing to Bowie and Prince performing. Now that would be one hell of a party.
Second Hand Rose
Photographers shown include: Ed Croneweth (LA photo), Douglas Kirkland (bed photo), Milton Greene, Bert Stern, Frank Worth, Eugene Kornman (halter neck dress) among others.

Here are some other articles I've written about Marilyn: