What it feels like to have a stroke.

There I was, teaching up a storm at a business in Budapest when I started to feel funny. Sort of not quite there. The English words that had been so easy to say fifteen minutes earlier, suddenly got difficult. I could hear it in my voice, a sort of mushiness. Then my right arm and right leg stopped obeying me. I didn\’t have a headache, could see perfectly well – but something odd was definitely happening.

Could I be having a stroke, I wondered.  I\’d seen the public service announcements that seemed quite hot on things like one arm and one leg having their own ideas about what would be fun to do. I\’d read a brilliant book called \”My Stroke of Insight\” by Jill Bolte Taylor which seemed to be saying the same things.

Nah, I thought. I\’m fine. This is just… a bit odd.

A deeper part seemed to be trying to get my attention. You are having a stroke, you twerp, it said.

Around then my relationship with words seemed to break down. \”I\’m very sorry,\” I explained to my round eyed students, \”I\’ll have to stop the lesson. I\’m having a stroke.\” I think I said more but I don\’t remember what, the words had gone.

I then spent a lot of time putting my pen in my bag. It took about eight goes to get my right hand to pick up my pen and put it in my bag. My right side sagged. I wonder what\’s going to happen next? asked a perkily independent part of me.

Ambulance men arrived and strapped me into a chair, then a stretcher. Interesting, said the perky part. They did things with tubes and needles.

I was much more concerned with what was going on inside. The right side of my field of vision was full of fascinating hallucinations: golden lists of words swirled by, numbers, splendid geometric shapes. In amongst it all, I felt a cat arrive and crawl along my right side.

Don\’t be bloody stupid, snarled my left side, it\’s just a hallucination.

The cat looked smug and curled deeper along my right side where a ghost arm had somehow liberated itself from its physical twin. The ghost arm took the chance to demonstrate some very interesting moves, the cat disappeared, while my left side told my right side to stop acting like a bloody fool.

I was in intensive care by now. Electric stickies decorated my chest and a snarl of wires, something went in a needle on my left side, my right side had decided not to work at all. At some stage while I had been concerned with ghost arms and cats they had taken all my clothes off and put me in a nappy.

I was quite happy. Ah look, I thought fondly as I blinked up at the vital signs moniter, I remember you when you were just a twinkle in a \”Star Trek\” designer\’s eye.

And then I went to sleep.

 

 

 

Remy the Hero-Cat

I have to be fair to Remy the #cat. He once covered himself in glory by (sort of) saving a #baby and was rewarded with #sardines and much cuddling. He was only about 18 months old at the time as we first got him when I was very pregnant.
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After Alex my baby girl was born, I was careful to introduce her to him as a mother cat with new kittens would  to an older kitten: first I hissed at him when he came near her, and then I made sure he could see and smell me breastfeeding her. He definitely understood. He never tried to get in her Moses basket and when I had to leave her even for a moment, I always found Uncle Remy sitting nearby, keeping an eye on her.
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We lived in a little house with no central heating, just a gas fire in the living room. So I had the baby there most of the time and I used to change her on a mat in front of the gas fir. Now it so happens that although I\’m very far from being a neat freak, my husband Chris was an outstanding incurable slob. As he came through the door after work he would leave a scatter of stuff behind him, including his tie which he would rip off, roll up and toss down wherever he happened to be. As I was messy too and overwhelmed with looking after the baby, I often didn\’t notice.
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One day I was changing Alex in front of the fire in a sitting room that admittedly looked as if a bomb had hit it. Remy came strolling past to supervise the interesting procedure.
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Suddenly he froze on the spot. He was staring at something that was obviously frightening him because all his fur was up and his tail bottled to three times its usual size. Oddly, though, he didn\’t run away.
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I tried to see what had scared him. Then I realised. Remy was staring at the rolled up tie… Which had a striped pattern and really did look a lot like a poisonous snake, with the diamond head and the coiled body.
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I kept quiet to see what Remy would do. And this is when he was a hero.
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Very very slowly and carefully, Remy silently moved himself around so that his furry body was between the tie-snake and my baby. Inch by inch he placed himself so that the tie-snake could only get to Alex through him.
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And then he pounced. With lightning paws, he batted and clawed the tie-snake\’s head and then he pounced on top of it and broke its neck, shook it, killed it and ripped it up with his claws.
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No goddam tie-snake was gonna get HIS little sister!
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As soon as the tie-snake was properly dead, I scooped Remy up and hugged him and told him how brave he was. It hadn\’t been a game. His eyes were wild, he was breathing hard, his heart was pounding three times as fast as normal and his tail was still bottled. Obviously I gave him sardines, his favourite food.
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It was well-worth having to buy Chris a new tie to know that when push came to shove, Remy the cat was willing to risk his life for our baby!

ON BEING A SLOB 3

Is it depraved and disgusting to enjoy cracking fleas?
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We\’re counting down to Flea Day on Friday when house, bedding and animals have to be simultaneously dosed with ghastly insecticides so the little bastards have no place to go and so keel over and DIE. After you do the spraying and the powdering, you then have to get the animals out of the house for an hour and dot them with Frontline. After a quick visit to A&E to deal with the cat-clawing, you then have to go back in the house and hoover it all up before the animals come in again. It\’s a major operation.
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In the meantime, of course, poor Maisie still has fleas (so has the dog, of course, but she doesn\’t seem to care.) It\’s not good for her to dose too often with anti-flea stuff. Maisie sits on my windowsill, grooms and scratches and stares at me and then she miaows in a particularly annoying and insistent way. It\’s quite different from her \”Feed me now, I\’m a lickle itty-bitty kitten about to expire of starvation!\” miaow which has a very pathetic croak in it. It\’s more an \”Oi! Groom me, you stupid ape!\” kind of shout.
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Unfortunately, Maisie does not approve of the electric flea zapper comb which will obviously kill her dead if she lets it near her. So  being a well-trained cat-servant, I groom her with a nit comb. Maisie loves this and purrs like a revving motorbike. It  takes a lot of dexterity because as the little bastards get caught in the teeth of the comb you have to quickly crack them against the comb with your thumbnail. 
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This particular bloodsport is both revolting and strangely satisfying. There\’s the skill involved in catching them before they jump back on the cat, but it\’s the loud \”pop\” when you get them good that does it for me.
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Is it calling to my inner primate…? My distant ancestors who whiled away the jungle hours cracking each others\’ parasites? Probably.
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And it reminds me of something… Can our instinct for flea-cracking explain the mysterious allure of popping bubble-wrap for stress-relief?